Pray for Turkey

I recently returned from visiting Pastor Ihsan in Ankara, Turkey. He and teh evangelical church in Turkey (which is primarily made up of converts) are doing an incredible work. They are serving the Iraqi and Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS. These refugees — Kurds, Yazidis, Turkmen, Christians — arrive in Turkey with nothing. The church has responded with care and teh Gospel.  If you are interested in helping their work, you can make a gift to Beaverton Foursquare and indicate that it is for the refugees. We will insure that every dollar goes to the efforts of the church there.

The following is from Pray for Turkey and addresses the ongoing efforts of the church to bring peace and stability to the country.  I met with Pastor Ihsan Ozbek when I was there. He is part of the leadership that is serving the refugees.

Pastor Ihsan’s  Press Conference

12 leaders of the Protestant Churches in Turkey came to Diyarbakir to draw attention to the instances of terrorism and imposed curfews in the Sur district of the city.  Ihsan Özbek, the head pastor of the Kurtuluş Churches, reported that they had come to beg our state to demonstrate its greatness by showing mercy and justice to all its children, and to beg those seeking a solution by “digging trenches” instead to choose to express themselves (their grievances) without weapons.

Pastor Ihsan Özbek came to Diyarbakir as the spiritual leader of the 12 protestant Churches in Turkey (sic).  After first meeting with Governor Hüseyin Aksoy and visiting the Greater Municipality Mayor Gültan Kışanak he held a press conference.  Speaking on behalf of the commission, Kurtuluş Churches Head pastor Ihsan Özbek said they had come to Diyarbakır as the leaders of the Protestant Churches in Turkey.  Özbek said that they were here as followers and representatives of Jesus Christ who repeatedly said “love one another.”

“WE CAME TO PLEAD”
Özbek noted that they came under the weight of Almighty God who cannot remain a spectator as the people whom he created with his love are suffering so terribly and facing death.  Özbek said

“It is obvious to all of us that hate, anger and conflict have not and will not bring peace.  We came to beg all parties to take steps towards peace to escape from this terrible vortex.  Between the tears being shed and the smoke of the battles our eyes can’t see and our minds can’t think.  In this current atmosphere no steps can be taken for peace and goodness, we have come to plead ‘Stop, think again’.  We came to beg our government to demonstrate its greatness by showing mercy and justice to all its children, and on the other hand, to plead with those of our citizens who are seeking solutions by ‘digging trenches’ to choose to express themselves without weapons.”

“WE HAVE HOPE OF LIVING IN BROTHERHOOD”
Özbek, who explained that he had hope that in Turkey we could live in peace and brotherhood, emphasized that those bodies that represent the will of the people, the parliament, the President, the government and local administrations, must work hand in hand.  Özbek continued:

“Without looking at who is right and who is wrong, the moment we can say ‘fighting is not necessary, we will solve these problems with dialogue’ then the dark clouds will immediately lift from our country.  No matter where you are, we plead with all our citizens to hold out your hand today to make tomorrow’s peace a reality today.   We love our country and we pray blessings at all times for everyone, from the greatest to the least, both for our leaders and for all the people.  And we don’t just pray; we will knock on every door until peace comes to our country.”

Özbek explained that they would make appointments to visit the President and the Prime Minister to bring these pleas to them as well.

Pray for Peace to come to Turkey and pray that the Christians will play a role in bringing this Peace to Turkey.

Hands

RabiaRabia is a Christian who lives in Ankara, Turkey with her husband and children. She and her team of special needs children’s advocates are serving the least of the least. Her church is proving for the Iraqi and Syrian refugees in a significant way. They feed and clothe about 4,000 of the war refugees arriving from the south and east. in serving these people, Rabia noticed that there are families with children who have special needs. The challenges to those families was even more daunting in this new country. Turkey provides no public assistance to refugees.  They are safe here, but they need to fend for themselves. The church, which is very small in Turkey, has stepped in to advocate.  She and her team, Kardelen Ministries, visit 40 flats in the refugee areas. Each of these two bedroom flats house about 4 families. There are a total of 300 people who are directly impacted by what she does. Her office provides a respite for the families several times per week. The families come and are fed. The special needs child plays in the physical therapy room. The other children have a play area, as well. And the moms are taken aside and pampered. War torn and desperate, they have forgotten to take care of themselves. So for several hours they get their hair cut and get to just enjoy being women together. She has put a face on Christianity that has not been seen before by many of these people. She is extending the advent of Jesus with her own hands.

Turkey

Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22:3)

TraffficMost of the Ankara streets are not marked — at least not with visible corner signs. I began with an expectation that I could simply map out my drive to the center of the capital of Turkey and follow the instructions. I wasn’t using a mobile service, so I wisely looked up the directions prior to leaving the wifi zone and confidently took a photo of the details. According to the instructions, I should have been there in 12 minutes after entering the city. 3 and a 1/2 weary hours later I arrived at my destination.

This was truly a problem of my own making. Having traveled to numerous countries around the world, I know that turning on my phone without a local service card in it is an invitation to telephone robbery. I have seen outrageous phone charges from just a small text exchange. I didn’t think that the purchase of a local service card was necessary, so I did all my planning when wifi was available.

I have learned how to be patient in life, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. This is just the kind of situation that tests me! But I kept my cool because I was committed to doing this my way (which wasn’t working). I would occasionally stop when I found a free wifi service and get a GPS reroute. Getting a little wiser, I would try to pay attention to the actual distances that were listed in the GPS instructions. That failed numerous times as I was routed onto congested traffic with no clear way to get back to my point of failure. These lanes can carry you along with them like a riptide.

But there I was the middle of rush hour traffic unable to find any help. I tried, but most people are not fluent in frenzied-tourist English. I searched desperately for an advocate – someone who would take some pity on the humble and lost American. I imagined giving them the keys and letting them drive me to my destination. Frankly, there was no shortage of thoughtful, gracious people who tried to explain to me what to do, but Turkish doesn’t get any clearer to me when it is spoken loudly with hand gestures. So the situation only progressed from bad to worse. At one point I was in gridlock and thought about abandoning the car altogether and getting a taxi.

My determination blinded me. It finally occurred to me that I would happily pay the outrageous data bill if I could get out of this mess. I had an advocate in the sky outside myself. I need only enable my cellular communications. So I did. And I finally heard the comforting automated voice of my GPS. It told me where and when to turn and what to anticipate in the moments ahead. It turns was not very far from my destination. I could have walked and gotten there in 3 minutes! All I really needed was an advocate who had access to information that I didn’t have.

It is fitting that I am here working with a man who helps Syrian refugees. These aliens in his land are desperate and without any sense of direction as well, only their difficulty is lasting a whole lot longer than my 3 and ½ hours. The stories I have heard are heartbreaking. Man’s inhumanity to man knows no bounds. They come here frightened and tired. They are trying to find some way to get a footing. They need an advocate who has access to things they cannot get and will share with them in their sufferings — someone with a sense of direction.

In the verse above, Jeremiah was warning the king to be an advocate for those who were oppressed. He had it within his means to relieve the suffering. All he needed to do was to act. It is God’s heart that His people would be the ones who would set aside their own needs and desires and serve those who have no one to advocate for them.

Pastor Mark

 

 

 

Spain

We often get letters of thanks from missionaries who we support around the world.  Here is a letter from Anne Hughes, who works in Spain in a cafe that shares the Gospel with people who take the long El Camino Santiago trail as a pilgrimage to get in touch with God. Frankly, many people end the trail very discouraged and Anne and her team are there to bring a message of hope.

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! – Psalm 106:1
A full cornucopia

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear [Beaverton Foursquare],

I hope this Thanksgiving finds you well, celebrating with family or good friends (who can be like family anyway, right?).

Mark, I want you to know how grateful I am for your support this year. It hasn´t been easy, but your faithfulness, generosity, and willingness to give has meant so much to me. God has been incredibly faithful in His provision, and although I am not quite out of the woods, I am humbled greatly by how people like you have stepped up to help. I truly would not be in Spain without you. Thank you SO MUCH!

Please know that pilgrims are also grateful for the work that is done at Pilgrim House, and you play a vital role in that.

Have a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving!

Love,
Anne

Water

Miraculously, the new well has much more volume of water than anticipated. All our students and staff were lit up, and for the first time ever water overflow in abundance to the church, my house and the dormitory. My heart was overflowing with joy and tears in my eyes to see fresh water running in to our house, showers and kitchen. We all had refreshing shower in the afternoon of November 20th, 2015. This is the end of the drought and opening of a new refreshing year 2016 and the years ahead.” (Pastor Titus Luther, National Leader, Solomon Islands Foursquare Church)

It is hard for those of us who live in Oregon to imagine life without water. Yet the clean water we enjoy is a luxury very few people in the world enjoy. According to the United Nations,

  1. 884 million people in the world lack access to safe water supplies.
  2. More than 840,000 people die each year from water-related disease.
  3. In many developing countries, millions of women spend several hours a day collecting water from distant, often polluted sources. (as pictured below)
  4. More than 1/2 of all primary schools in developing countries don’t have adequate water facilities and nearly 2/3 lack adequate sanitation.
  5. Clean water is one aspect of improving sustainable food production in order to reduce poverty and hunger.
  6. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.
  7. Every $1 spent on water and sanitation generates $8 as a result of saved time, increased productivity and reduced health care costs.

1The water tower shown here was constructed by our friends in Solomon Islands in order to serve their campus with abundant clean water. Prior to the deep-water well that we drilled (75 feet deep), the property had two shallow wells that were used for cleaning, drinking (after being boiled) and cooking. The deep well provides clean, drinkable water. As Titus himself says, this is a game changer. The water will serve not only the campus school (100 K-6 kids) and institute (training 35 live-in pastors), but will also be given to the surrounding community as living water. That is what abundance does!

2Three years ago I was in the Solomon Islands and saw the work Titus is doing. He has an outreach center that feeds street kids in Honiara, Guadalcanal. When some of the kids show the heart for the Gospel, he invites them to live at the institute. There they prepare for ministry or higher education. In the second year they are sent out as missionaries to the more than 300 occupied islands of the Solomons. After graduation, many will go to these islands to plant churches and remain as the pastors.

4This is the nature of Christian Advocacy. Titus loves the unwanted children of the streets of Honiara.  He has advocated for them for a completely different life.  Then he invites fellow advocates with unique skills and resources to be a part of his plan. We were privileged to partner with Grace Covenant Church in North Carolina in the development of this water system. Titus and his team is changing the world of the Solomon Islands!

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“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

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Earthquake

Well we woke up to a 6.8 earthquake whose epicenter was about 30 miles away. Jim and I were already up so we headed out the door and rode it out behind the hotel with an Australian in his underwear. The rest of the guests either stayed inside or slept through it. It was a pretty good shaker. Yesterday was a big production day. we were able to set the solar panels to run the pump. We also put the pump into the well. Today we pump water.

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The crane arrived so we were able to erect the water tower.
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Lots of eager watchers – they cannot wait to have the water!!!
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We’re impressed by the attention to detail with these guys.
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This guy had to go up and retrieve the lifting harness from the lifting of the first half of the tower. Jim and I were offered the privilege, but we didn’t want to show anyone up.
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And we have our tower… ready for the tank today.  Praise God that we get to make such a difference to such a critical need!

Solomons

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Meet Pastor Titus Luther, Senior Pastor of Gospel Light Foursquare Church and the National Leader of the Solomon Islands Foursquare Church.  He is a husband and father of 6 kids. Of course if you want to include the many, many young people he “fathers” the number quickly goes to the hundreds.
Titus came to Solomon Islands six years ago to plant a church in Honiara, Guadalcanal, the capital of SI. In his native Papua New Guinea, he was the national youth director. So when he arrived he was immediately drawn to the street kids who live in Honiara, one of the poorest cities in the world. It reminds Jim and me a lot of Haiti without the earthquake. Street kids are the unwanted children who grow up mostly illiterate on the streets scrounging out a living. He opened a youth center to feed the kids and share the Gospel. Many receive Jesus. Of those who he saw promise, he invited them to his Institute (there are about 100 here now). The Institute is a few acres of mostly undeveloped land far from the streets of the city. The men and women who come here are trained in reading, writing, and most importantly, the Word of God. In their second year they go to one of the over 300 inhabited Solomon Islands to share Jesus. When they finally graduate, many of them will go to these islands to live and to plant churches. Others may continue for a higher education.
Inline image 7Jim Pringle and I arrived on Sunday and have been hard at work since. The folks from the church were still socially gathering. Children were everywhere (he also has a primary school – K-6 – that has about 85 kids. He has been given government approval (the Prime Minister of SI has recognized the work of the school and has come to the last two graduations. In fact, the young men and women from the Institute are sought by local businesses for work because of their work ethic and integrity, a reflection of the dedication of Titus to these kids.
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Daily life is considerably consumed with getting water. A shallow well with swampy water provides everything, including drinking and cooking water (they boil the water before using). They bring it up by the bucket load. There are people there from dawn to dusk. The water tower they constructed for us will have to be raised another 15 feet.  We asked them to drill a deep well before we arrived and it is finished and able to provide 25 gallons per minute. Jim and I will be working with them to provide a complete campus water system – clean and filtered – that will last far into the future needs they are projecting. It will provide running water to every corner of the campus.
Inline image 6Pray that our time and productivity will be multiplied. This is an amazing work and great to be a part of.  Titus has repeatedly thanked us profusely for the impact this will have on his work here.

 

 

Squeeze

IMG_1964Pastor Sanchang Phago leads a church of about 40 people in a village called Jhiljeli in SE Nepal. His church is in a region of serious unrest as Nepal wrestles with its identity as a secular nation. Just this past September Nepal’s Constituent Assembly rejected calls to re-declare Nepal as a Hindu state and remove the term ‘secularism’ from the new Constitution. This triggered protests by Hindu activists and four churches in this area were bombed. To add to Nepal’s trouble, India is rationing shipments of petroleum and other essential goods into Nepal, forcing them to seek trade relief from China. Prices are spiraling out-of-control in a nation that is among the poorest on Earth. Caught in the struggle are the low caste people who simply lack the resources to deal with these changes.

Pastor Phago has his work cut out for him. He and the Christians in his congregation are being squeezed from every side. There is no economic advantage in Nepal to being a Christian. On the contrary, it may derail any economic or social opportunities a man or woman had previously enjoyed. His congregation is reeling under the weight of converging forces they are powerless to affect.

The stories I read of Rome in the Book of Acts remind me of India and Nepal. Hinduism is essentially polytheist, relying on a complex system of traditions and sacrifices led by an elite priest caste, much like the Paganism of Rome. Hindus have no problem adding Jesus to the pantheon of gods. It is not unusual to meet a Hindu who will tell you that he loves Jesus, was saved by Jesus and had his life changed by Jesus… while at the same time he is on his way to the temple to offer incense to Ganesh, the elephant god. However, if you reject Hinduism and call yourself a Christian, you are no longer part of the community and are likely to be ostracized.

Pastor Ajay, a church planter and friend (and former worshipper of Ganesh) has been encouraging church leaders in this part of Nepal. He runs a leaders training institute and has had a significant impact on the unity of churches in this region. He is a sacrificial advocate for the church leaders in this part of Nepal, like Pastor Phago. When I was in India last week he asked me to come and encourage the pastors of the region.

I couldn’t possibly turn him down. But it is humbling to think that he would ask me to encourage these men. I live in a country where we do not pay a price to be Christians. We may not have the endorsement we have previously enjoyed from society at large, but we are free to believe and to express the love of Jesus to the hurting world around us.

I met some amazing people — men and women who are struggling and have been discouraged of late. As privileged as I was to bring a word of encouragement, it was not my empathy, wisdom or experience that could make a difference – it was the word of God. And it was the dedication of an advocate named Pastor Ajay who knew what they needed in times like these when they are being squeezed from all sides.

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Jonathan

JonathanHe is a teacher, a builder, a technician, a handyman, a driver, and a quick learner no matter what you throw his way. He is one of the members of the leadership team at Bright Hope English School in India. Jonathan was born in a small village in Northern India. His “caste” would have prevented him from making any significant contribution to society, but he was born into a Christian family, so he never saw himself from the perspective of the caste system, but rather as a son of God…

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28).

Bright Hope English School is a Christian school that provides a free education for 100 minority girls in Northern India who would otherwise have very limited and difficult lives. We assist them by raising support for the girls ($40/month per girl). You can be a part of that by giving here.

Next week and through the first weeks in November, a team from Beaverton will have the privilege of coming alongside Jonathan and the amazing teachers at the school to encourage and teach. Please pray for the team and for the school!

Fire

We had 4 minutes to flee our home. It took 5 more minutes for the fire to consume it.” (Brent Blanchard, Oroville, WA)

IMG_1673The wildfires that burned throughout the West in the past months wreaked havoc on many communities, including north central Washington. Brent and Ashley saw a mushroom cloud of black smoke rising up from the other side of the mountain where they live.  The air was thick with smoke and it was hard to see what was going on. They didn’t even see visible flames until they were practically on top of them and then they had to flee their home.

IMG_1644Brent and Ashley, like 170 other families, lost their home to the Okanagan Complex fire – the largest wildfire in Washington State history. Overall 8.8 million acres burned in Washington State this year – three times as many as in California, which also saw a record wildfire season. When the media coverage is at its height it seems that everyone is sympathetic and wants to help those who have lost their homes.  But when the ash settles, most are left to work through a long recovery alone. Even when insurance is eventually going to help with replacement, it is a long time before life resembles anything normal.

The families who were hardest hit are not able to deal with the loss.  Many are living on the land and do not have clean sources of water.  They might have limited sanitation and no electricity.  And they are remote — very hard to get to. Brent and Ashley had a very nice home with electricity and all of the modern conveniences, but getting it rebuilt before winter is impossible. Temporary shelter comes to an end. Winter sets in.  Emergency funds run out. Hope fades.  Resources simply are not there.

IMG_1641Brent said they felt forgotten.  Who cares about a couple of folks living in the remote wilderness when the fires are long gone and the media left town?  But a pastor from a church in the area got a hold of him to tell him that a few folks from Oregon were coming up to help him build a shelter for the winter.  He was overwhelmed. Prayers were answered. God had not forgotten him. A miracle was taking place. People he had never met were coming from far away to help him. Sometimes prayers are answered in overalls and hard work.

Our Beaverton Foursquare construction teams are currently at work building. It has been encouraging to see the faith of Brent and Ashley. They cried many tears, but they did not complain. They felt abandoned by people but kept turning to God. They trusted in Jesus when calamity struck, believing that He would come through somehow. Like Habakkuk, they found a way to rejoice in the midst of trials…

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)