Monthly Archives: November 2009

An American Thanksgiving…

Every year Americans gather on the fourth Thursday of November to give thanks for a land of plenty and a year of blessings.

As the fall season comes to a close and a nation gathers for a celebratory meal with family and friends, the romantic within me is unleashed. For a day I can imagine a land and its people turning their faces to God—all in their own way acknowledging something larger, more expansive, than the narrow confines of daily life.

The origins of the day are well known. The first year in the new world for pilgrim settlers in New England was rough, and they gathered with Native Americans to have a meal and give thanks. Later, it became customary for nearly every U.S. president to call for an annual day of thanksgiving. The proclamations began with George Washington. But it was during Franklin Roosevelt’s second term that the fourth Thursday in November was fixed as the national day of Thanksgiving.

Today Thanksgiving remains popular as a holiday of traditional foods, family gatherings and football. This marvelous day of collective family and national bonding hints of an underlying spirituality even though secularism is making inroads into the character of the people. Ironically, the popularity of the day is in part because it is a national rather than a religious day of Thanksgiving. This is not lost on many observers.

That the day is still so popular throughout the nation is a sign of hope. There is a remnant within the land who recognize there is something more to America than just being one large consumer for the world’s goods. Materialism alone, some understand, does not satisfy the deepest human needs for meaning and purpose in life.

We are living a perfect example of God’s words through the prophet Haggai: “You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:6)

This Thanksgiving, like last, offers an opportunity to reflect that the good times may not last forever. Use this year’s Thanksgiving season to consider a new and better understanding of the God who has blessed this great land. Lift your hands and your heart in grateful thanks for what you have and ask this God to reveal Himself to you.

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Frequently Asked Questions

While we are free to act as Christians and to express ourselves within the foreign community in China, it is important to not draw attention to ourselves. Serving China is a strategic opportunity to be a part of what God has been doing in China for years and will continue for years to come. The safety and blessing of the Chinese people is of utmost concern. National Christians could face serious consequences if their involvement with Christian activities becomes known.

It is essential to constantly be aware that China is a police state, and their government misconstrues Christian activity as subversive – especially by foreigners. A single careless slip on our part can lead to disaster, especially for our dear Chinese brothers and sisters. This means that every conversation must be non-political and any Christian content carefully disguised.

Evangelism should be done in a cultural context and in conjunction with local believers. In China, the enforcement of laws and policies vary from city to city. Only participate in activities that are deemed appropriate by the Christians in the area that you are operating. Avoid all activities that are high profile or public.

Why do you often have to be so secretive about what you are doing in China?
Operating in the most hostile areas of the world, we must be extremely careful to protect the local church from further persecution and restrictions. Often we cannot share the name of a city or church we are helping because word can be spread very quickly and may cause the arrest of the believers, confiscation of the materials and great danger for our local contacts.

Are Christians really suffering from persecution and restrictions today?
The closer we come to the end of the age, the more the persecution of the church intensifies. Today, in many parts of the world, God’s people do not have the liberty to meet freely, cannot get a Bible, are fired from jobs and may even be driven from their homes because they will not renounce their faith. Pastors are prohibited from obtaining the training they need, and are often thrown into prison or subjected to constant harassment by local officials or religious leaders.

Where is the church receiving the greatest persecution today?
A major area of “neglected fields of harvest” today is in the “10/40 Window” where 97 percent of the world’s least evangelized people live. This rectangular area extends from West Africa across Asia, between the 10th and 40th parallels north of the equator. There are 1.6 billion Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists living in this window, and in some countries the Church has almost been eliminated as a result of Islamic oppression. The Christian population there is less than 2 percent, a small but precious minority. Another critical area in the “10/40 Window” where Christians are being persecuted is China. Pastors and evangelists are being arrested. House churches are being closed and their leaders threatened. Some key contacts have been jailed for distributing Bibles. And despite the decline of communism in Europe, China still maintains a hard-line atheist stance, and the situation for the church is worsening there.

What do you do beyond taking Bibles to the Suffering Church?
We want to respond effectively to the cries of the Suffering Church. We aren’t limited to any one way of helping the church, but our practice is to first ask the church leaders what their needs are. If they are in need of Bibles, we will find a way to get them delivered. If they need training for their leaders, we will find a way to get the job done. If they need prayer for believers who have been put in prison, we will mobilize an international prayer army to intercede for their release. And we often find a way to provide food, clothing, and medicine to believers who are living in hardship. Supplying Bibles will always be a very big part of what we do. This is because the Bible and biblical teaching is at the very core of our ministry and organizational policy.

What makes IAfC such a unique ministry?
When severe suffering and restriction hit the church, we are usually among the very first to find a way to answer the call for help. Ever since God called us into ministry in 1992, the Lord has shown us that we can overcome the tactics of the enemy through prayer, steadfast faith and an expectation that God will lead us. We use many innovative and strategic ways to confound the authorities who desperately want to stop us from helping the church they are trying to control and eliminate. We usually respond to their cries for help through person-to-person contact and visits.

Why should IAfC be one of the primary mission organizations I support today?
Ours is a unique mission that builds spiritual leadership behind the enemy’s lines to help the Suffering Church survive and grow. We have been called to go into the very toughest spots where most other ministries don’t go. We are a “leading edge ministry.” When leaders are reached for Christ and the church strengthened, countries can be changed from the inside out, resulting in tremendous opportunities to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

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Veterans Day 2009

We have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America. From the Minute men who stood watch over Lexington and Concord to the service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, American veterans deserve our deepest appreciation and respect. Our Nation’s servicemen and women are our best and brightest, enlisting in times of peace and war, serving with honor under the most difficult circumstances, and making sacrifices that many of us cannot begin to imagine. Today, we reflect upon the invaluable contributions of our country’s veterans and reaffirm our commitment to provide them and their families with the essential support they were promised and have earned.

Caring for our veterans is more than a way of thanking them for their service. It is an obligation to our fellow citizens who have risked their lives to defend our freedom. This selflessness binds our fates with theirs, and recognizing those who were willing to give their last full measure of devotion for us is a debt of honor for every American.

We also pay tribute to all who have worn the uniform and continue to serve their country as civilians. Many veterans act as coaches, teachers, and mentors in their communities, selflessly volunteering their time and expertise. They visit schools to tell our Nation’s students of their experiences and help counsel our troops returning from the theater of war. These men and women possess an unwavering belief in the idea of America: no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who your parents are, this is a place where anything is possible. Our veterans continue to stand up for those timeless American ideals of liberty, self-determination, and equal opportunity.

On Veterans Day, we honor the heroes we have lost, and we rededicate ourselves to the next generation of veterans by supporting our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen as they return home from duty. Our grateful Nation must keep our solemn promises to these brave men and women and their families. They have given their unwavering devotion to the American people, and we must keep our covenant with them.

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