Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The World's Greatest Crisis?

The New York Times recently revealed a devastating report stating that hundreds of girls as young as 11 have been raped and impregnated by members of Boko Haram. The radical Islamist sect has long targeted girls, including the 300 mostly Christian schoolgirls they kidnapped last year. These are actions of evil too terrible to imagine much less personally endure.

Popular Christian writer Ann Voskamp recently visited refugees in Northern Iraq who had fled ISIS. She noticed 5 and 7-year old girls among the families, but no 9-year-olds. The reason for what she saw was that ISIS sells 9-year-old girls in slave bazaars. Voskamp wrote, “They are categorized. Stripped, shipped naked, examined and distributed. They are sold and passed around like  meat and livestock.” Many are kept in large stark rooms indefinitely and just wait there each day to be selected at a moments notice to face the most cruel and inhumane treatment we can imagine.

One UN representative confirmed that  females are sold as sexual slaves for $43. The price rises to $172 for the youngest between ages 1–9. There was one  report of a  girl was “married” more than 20 times, each time forced to undergo surgery to “restore” her virginity.

It is well known that ISIS has institutionalized sexual violence and the brutalization of women as a central aspect of their ideology and operations. They do it for a variety of reasons. Their goals are to totally destabilize and demoralize a community, to placate other insurgent groups, increase their own numbers or to fund their own terrorist campaigns.

But recently there have been comments made by some leaders in the U.S. congress, and by the President himself, about what is the most serious issue in this present hour. It was not the wickedness that so many are today facing around the world. Instead, their crisis of choice is climate control.  Interesting. 

And while nobody in their right mind would make light of such a problem, if it exists on any serious level, I wonder what would be the number one crisis to the women, young girls and family members that are being brutalized every day as just described?  I wonder if the current 1/8 of an inch rise in the ocean levels per year is a major concern to 10-year old child being sold as a sex slave in Iraq or Nigeria. I wonder how much a father and husband who sees his wife and daughters kidnapped and enslaved worries about the reported half of one degree temperature increase per ‘decade’? And I wonder how much a teen who has been intentionally infected with AIDS and impregnated by a terrorist thinks about the ozone layer or the global use of fossil fuels?

Again, it would be foolish and irresponsible to ignore any real probable’s concerning the environment since that can impact us all. But to focus primarily on these very slowly moving tends, that may or may not continue down the road, above the large scale human suffering as taking place around the globe seems somehow  somewhat misguided and beyond insensitive.

Pray for those suffering things that many of us cannot fathom or perhaps care not to. Pray for the world leaders that have the ability to speak out, apply pressure and even use force to alleviate the suffering of helpless and innocent woman and children.  Especially pray that, in the midst of these unspeakable horrors, that some might even come to know Christ as Savior. And pray that Christians in these terrible places may somehow share the love of God and the salvation that is in Christ alone. And do all of this knowing that, in the final analysis, the world’s greatest overall problem will always be rejecting God’s salvation through Christ and facing eternal suffering and separation from Him!

"And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!" Luke 12:5

Bill Breckenridge

Click here to read an interesting article on politics and climate change.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Killer Quakes In Nepal

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilence’s, and earthquakes in various places.” Those were the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 when he was asked by His disciples for a sign of his return and when the end of the age would come.

And one such sign was seen in the form of a deadly earthquake in Nepal in late April -  one that was followed by another smaller one this week. The death toll for the large quake was over 8,000 along with another 19,000 being injured.  Nepal's Prime Minister has said the number of dead could reach 10,000.  The quake was estimated to be 16 times more powerful than Haiti’s 2010 disaster and was the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since the 1934.

According to the USGS, the temblor was caused by a sudden release of built-up stress, along the major fault line where the Indian Plate, carrying India, is slowly diving underneath the Eurasian Plate, carrying much of Europe and Asia. The earthquake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing at least 19, making it the deadliest day on the mountain in history. Satellite images reveal that the highest mountain in the world actually lost a fraction of its height from the event.

Geophysicists and other experts had warned for decades that Nepal was vulnerable to a deadly earthquake, particularly because of its geology and architecture. Concern was expressed that harvests could now be reduced or lost this season as people affected by the earthquake would have only a short time to plant crops before the onset of the Monsoon rains. Nepal is one of Asia's poorest countries and has little ability to fund a major reconstruction effort on its own. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates economic losses from the temblor could reach about 35 percent.

But there is another aspect of what has occurred in that devastated region that was less reported than other news about the killer quake. It is estimated that some 45 of the Christian churches in the area were destroyed and that 500 hundred worshippers were killed. That is because Saturday, the day of the week that churches meet there for prayer, was the day when the event took place. And article in Christianity Today online shared the following headline from May, 4. ‘Nepal Christians Return to Worship after Earthquake Turns Churches into Tombs: Evangelicals bear brunt of Christian deaths.’

But what about the Christian church in Nepal? What is their normal existence like? According to CBN news, their numbers have grown from 29 people, when the first church was planted in Nepal 60 years ago, to nearly 1 million today. But the practice of their faith is not an easy one. The country’s Christians are looking for a new constitution because they do not really have equal rights and religious freedoms. One pastor said, "There’s no respect for Christianity and we are not allowed to have open fellowship. The government allows us to have fellowship inside a hall or a building, but our churches are not registered.

Nepali Christians are also disrespected in death. Rarely are Christians given a place for burial since extremists believe non-Hindu bodies desecrate the land. Christians report militants often force them to dig up the buried remains of loved ones. One Christian woman reportedly kept her deceased husband's decaying body in her home because she was prevented from burying him.

The bottom line is that Christian brothers and sisters in Nepal are facing a long hard road and one that was exacerbated by the recent events there. And yet, in the midst of it all, many are helping survivors deal with the crisis. Despite being outcasts, God’s people are showing His love through their reaction to universal suffering. And when considering that the quake took place at the exact time that they were worshipping, that must cause some to consider more the claims of Christ. One local pastor stated,  "We want to keep the witness of God in this place and improve the church. Our main purpose is to influence all of the villagers,"

Today, Nepal is a mission field even more than before the April earthquake. Christians there are suffering as are others. But the church there has hope and answers that others there do not. As God leads, pray for brothers and sisters in the Lord there. Pray for the rebuilding of their personal lives, their churches and for the sharing of their testimony even in a  hostile culture. And if God so moves, support those organizations that are helping to meet both the physical and spiritual needs in a difficult and devastated part of our shrinking world. Doing so will help fulfill the biblical injunction seen in Romans 12:15. 

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

Bill Breckenridge