Church Blog

Nations Nearby | Part 8 | Pursuing Persians

March 17 2015 at 9:42 am 2 Comments

Pursuing Persians
by Almasih Kahdost

What he said caused my eyes to well up. It wasn’t anything dramatic per se, but still I found tears coming to my eyes and a smile landing on my face. What he said was precipitated by a question.

“How often do you go back to visit your home country?”

He stumbled a little, calculating how best to answer. He finally said something to the effect of, “It’s not really safe for me to return. You see, I’m a Christian and…”

That’s when the tears came.

I almost cried because my new friend is from Iran and I have been praying for his people for years now. But my tears weren’t because he can’t safely return to his country. Nor were they for the fact that his relationship with his mother took a dramatic turn for the worse because of his decision to follow Jesus. While those things were indeed sad, my tears were tears of joy.

FREED FROM A REPRESSIVE REGIME

It made me immensely happy to hear that this Persian brother had escaped the oppression of an evil regime and was coming to enjoy new freedoms he’d not previously experienced. Whereas before he had been the subject of repressive tyranny, now he was out from under the thumb of his captor, free.

His story is mine. While I’m not from Iran, he and I both responded to Jesus’ proclamation of freedom to the prisoners and were thereafter set free from oppression (Luke 4:18). Both he and I had been blinded by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), and were in fact following him (Ephesians 2:2). But now we’re both free.

CAN’T SHARE OVER THERE

Of course, not all Persians are like my friend. Many are still in captivity to sin, lost in darkness (like anyone else outside of Christ). But what sets Persians who’ve moved to the States apart from your typical been-here-for-generations American is that they have had little opportunity to hear the gospel. In fact, according to the self-styled Iranian Christian News Agency, Mohabat News, Iranian president Rouhani’s Advisor on Ethnic and Religious Minorities’ Affairs has said that “...no one has the right to promote his or her faith…it is not acceptable, for instance, for a Christian to invite a Muslim to Christianity.” (Incidentally, Iran has one of the fastest growing Christian populations in the world, albeit underground). While Advisor Younesi does say, “...everyone is free to practice his or her faith…” he seems to not grasp that inviting others to Christianity is part and parcel of practicing our faith.

WON’T SHARE OVER HERE

As believers, sharing our faith is non-negotiable and as Americans it is a privilege to be able to do it without fear of imprisonment (or worse). But many American believers won’t do it. Too busy or scared or something. Yet the Persian people at our office, in our neighborhoods, or who we bump into at Starbucks are now in an environment where they can freely listen and respond to the gospel. Could it be that God has dispersed Persians to countries where evangelism is legal “...so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him” (Acts 17:27)?

BUT I DON’T KNOW ANY PERSIANS

Of the 25,000-plus Iranian-born residents in the Baltimore/DC area, over 8,000 are in Montgomery County. Chances are you’ve met some, maybe even without realizing it. If you don’t know any, why not change that and learn about their culture? One way to do this would be to head to Black Hill Regional Park in Germantown on April 12 for Sizdah Be-dar. (A similar event will be held at Bull Run Park in Centerville on April 5). On these days thousands of Persians will enjoy spending time with friends, families and maybe even people they’ve just met. (Hint: that’s you!)

You can also meet some Persian folk around town AND get some really great food at the same time. Check out Caspian House of Kabob or Moby Dick, both in the Kentlands. Very warm, friendly staff and incredible food. Yekta in Rockville is wonderful as well. You can also stop by a couple of Persian stores (Caravan Deli or Potomac Gourmet) and meet folks there.

Persian’s ancient culture and history has much to offer and the high value placed on hospitality is something many many western Christians could learn from. That being said, we believers have something to offer non-believing Iranians; that is Christ Jesus, who lived, died and rose again to redeem those from every nation.

“Almasih Kahdost” is a long-time friend of Covenant Life who desires to see the nations come to Christ. Though preferring to publish anonymously, Almasih Kadost welcomes your comments below.

See all the posts in this series.


Share this on:




Nations Nearby | Part 7 | One Way to Share God’s Plan with Muslims

February 17 2015 at 1:34 pm 1 Comments

One Way to Share God’s Plan with Muslims
by Almasih Kahdost

Sitting barefoot in a sportsplex in Maryland, wearing traditional Pakistani attire given to me, I was enveloped by the chant of Allahu akbar, droning continuously. I watched as Muslims of various sizes, shapes and ethnicities assembled themselves in neat rows preparing for prayer; men filling the front of the field, women, the back. Once all (save one) gave praise to Allah while performing the various salat prayer positions, an imam taught that one lesson learned during the fast of Ramadan is gratitude. By denying oneself food during the daylight hours, a person is more grateful for it come evening. Having been fasting for my Muslim friends during this month myself, I learned this lesson firsthand and was grateful Ramadaan had come to a close.

As my Muslim friend and I left the sportsplex, I referred back to the imam’s message, asking for what my friend was most grateful. After listening, I shared my own thoughts, saying I was most grateful for qurbani; that is, blood sacrifice. I related how a sacrifice was provided for Adam and Hawa (Eve) to cover their shame when they had sinned in the garden. I reminded my friend how when Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s) son was in need of a sacrifice, it was divinely provided. I continued that Musa (Moses) was inspired to order atoning sacrifices for the sins of the people and that many years later, the prophet Isaiah foretold the coming masih (messiah) Who would Himself become qurbani in the place of His people, taking their shame. Then I related that the prophet Yahya (John the Baptist) pointed at Isa (Jesus) and calling him, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

“Why do you think Yahya called Isa a lamb,” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

I told my friend that prior to his death Isa had alerted his followers that He would lay down His life as a qurbani to set people free (Mark 10:45). Isa’s subjection to public shame was all a part of Allah’s loving plan to take away the sin and shame of His people. Just as He performed qurbani for Adam and Hawa to cover their shame, and just as He provided an animal for Ibrahim’s son, and just as He told Musa the way of qurbani for the forgiveness His people’s sin, now, in the death and resurrection of Isa, Allah was providing the ultimate qurbani - the ultimate sacrifice for sin. The shame and punishment that we deserved was laid upon Isa as a part of God’s loving plan to restore honor to His people.

My friend didn’t submit to Christ that day and is still a Muslim. We have had the family to our home and they have had us over as well. We have prayed in Isa’s name for the healing for their children. We’ve helped them with English and with transportation. I still make visits from time to time. We continue to pray regularly for this family.

These dear people represent one of many Muslim families in our area who can be reached with the love of Christ. Please consider how you can extend love and friendship to the people God has brought here. Amidst headlines filled by the likes of ISIS et al, it is too convenient to lump your neighbor in with them. If you begin to pray and ask God for inroads and share your life with your Muslim co-workers, neighbors and friends, you might be surprised at the laid opportunities before you.

“Almasih Kahdost” is a long-time friend of Covenant Life who desires to see the nations come to Christ. Though preferring to publish anonymously, Almasih Kadost welcomes your comments below.

See all the posts in this series.


Share this on:




Tokyo Mission Update

February 9 2015 at 12:31 pm 0 Comments

Interested in learning more about the Tokyo Mission? The Missions Team is hosting a Japan Mission Info Night on February 15 at the home of Linda B. where Seita Sakaguchi will discuss ways you can pray and get involved. Also see the Redeemer City to City website for a video feature about Grace Harbor Church where Seita is based.

Seita writes:

“As you may know, the Japanese people are one of the largest unreached people groups in the world. Of the 127 million Japanese people, the Christian population is only 0.22%. Most people will live and die without ever hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, unless someone brings the gospel to them.

We have been in Tokyo for about a year, seeking to bring the gospel to the Japanese people through the planting of Grace Harbor Church. Grace Harbor is a new church planting initiative in an area called Toyosu in the Tokyo Waterfront area. Thousands of people live and work in this densely populated area, but there was no Christian church for these 120,000 people, until Grace Harbor started last year.

Even though so many people live in this area, it’s not unusual to meet people who tell us that they have been living in this area for years, but they don’t really know anyone and that we are the first ones they can actually call friends. We have been seeking to be a blessing to this community by connecting people to one another through various events, such as concerts and cookouts, and by serving the needs of our community through events like Kids English Camp. A team from Covenant Life made this event a success for us last year. We have made so many wonderful friends, and I don’t have time to tell you all the stories, but I want to tell you about what we’re most excited about recently.

A few months ago, together with two other missionary families, we started meeting together with several of our non-Christian friends who showed spiritual openness weekly for dinner. At this weekly gathering, we not only share a meal together, but we also share our own struggles in our marriage and parenting and other relationships and how the gospel shapes our thinking and gives us hope in the midst of life’s struggles and power for change. We are seeking God working in their hearts, opening their eyes to their own brokenness as well as to their need for God. We’re praying that the beauty of Christ and the light of the gospel will break through soon.

Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” The harvest in Tokyo seems truly plentiful, so please pray that the Lord of the harvest will send more people to gather people into His kingdom. Pray also for us “that God may open to us a door for the word” to proclaim the glories of Jesus.

If you would like to know more about our mission in Tokyo and what God is doing there, please visit the Tokyo Mission website, and you can sign up to receive our prayer update e-mails.

Thank you so much for your partnership in the gospel with us.”

Interested in learning more about the Tokyo Mission? The Missions Team is hosting a Japan Mission Info Night on February 15 at the home of Linda B. where Seita will discuss ways you can pray and get involved.


Share this on:




Nations Nearby | Part 6 | The Sheep and the (Year of the) Goat

January 20 2015 at 9:30 am 0 Comments

The Sheep and the (Year of the) Goat

Ever been to Clarksburg? You know, just north of Germantown? With only around 14,000 people, it’s not the biggest “burg” in the world. In fact, when compared to the population of any major city in the U.S., it seems quite dinky.

But what if you were tasked with contacting and evangelizing all 14,000? What if you had to reach each person in this town with the gospel? Suddenly, Clarksburg wouldn’t seem so small any more, right?

Numbed by Numbers
When we talk demographics, we casually use words like “thousands” or “millions” without really grasping the weight of the numbers.

In Montgomery County, there are over 28,000* residents who were born in China. How do we wrap our minds around 28,000? Well, for starters, it’s twice the population of Clarksburg. Second, think of it this way: If you were to have an hour-long gospel conversation with each Chinese-born person in Montgomery County it would take you over three years. 28,000 is a lot of people.

And yet God has brought them here. Why?

Why Are They Here?
If you ask them, they may tell you they are here for the career or educational opportunities. Just a couple of days ago I was speaking to a man from China who had come to the States to study. But it would seem that God’s reason for bringing him here had less to do with education and more to do with salvation. He gave his life to Christ after participating in a Bible study with believers who had reached out to him.

Praise God for the brothers and sisters who reached out to this man! These people took Jesus’ directive to “make disciples” seriously. All of us would do well to follow their example. I say all of us because I think the Great Commission of Matthew 28 (as well as his other commissions in Mark 13:10, Luke 24:46-49, Acts 1:8) was given to all of us. And I think one of the reasons it was given to all of us, is because the task is so big.

Why Are We Here?
In his book, What Is the Mission of the Church?, Kevin DeYoung answers the title’s question by saying,

The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship the Lord and obey his commands now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father.

Now, setting aside the inherent danger of reducing the biblical mission of the church to a single sentence, we can all agree that if the above isn’t all of the church’s mission, it’s certainly not less.

So, if “making disciples” and “being his witnesses” is really important, the question must be asked: are we doing that? Are we going into the world, declaring the gospel? Is this the trajectory of our lives? If we can be so bold as to presume that Jesus’ “you will be my witnesses” was not only for the original audience, but for us as well, we must ruthlessly evaluate if we are obeying Him. We cannot be comfortable ignoring any of our Lord’s commands—especially one that is so central to our purpose.

The Predictable Caveat
Look, I’m not saying we should be witnessing to every single person we see. Certainly, we could all be “witnessing more.” However, for those of us who can’t remember the last time we shared our faith, or for those who have been Christians for years and have never, ever made one disciple because reputation, leisure, money, fellowship, conferences, retreats and other things have taken precedence, we have to ask ourselves if we have lost sight of one of the main reasons we have the ability to communicate.

Mission Impossible (Sort of)
Reaching the 28,000 Chinese-born people in Montgomery County with the gospel is an impossible task apart from God’s power and wisdom. As to His power, He has placed His Spirit within us and sends us out in His authority (Matthew 10:1). As to His wisdom, He has put us on a team. It’s not just you seeking to reach the masses of people who don’t yet know Christ. It is us.

All of us.

Rubber, Meet Road. Road, Meet Rubber
Consider praying that God would give you a relationship with a Chinese non-believer if you don’t already have one. As providence would have it, the Chinese New Year season is upon us. You could make friends at any of the various activities in the area, including at Lake Forest Mall. If God has given you a heart for the Chinese, meet with friends to pray before hand and ask God to lead you to someone. You might be surprised to find that God has been working in someone (remember Saul and Ananias, Acts 9:10-19) before you even get to them.

“Almasih Kahdost” is a long-time friend of CLC who desires to see the nations come to Christ. Though preferring to publish anonymously, Almasih Kadost welcomes your comments here.

See all the posts in this series.


*Of the 28,000 people in Montgomery County who were born in China, there are indeed Christians. But—and this is anecdotal—I dare say the majority are not.


Share this on:




Uganda 2015 update

January 15 2015 at 10:31 am 0 Comments

We received the following updates from the missions team currently serving the church in Uganda. Thank you for praying for them.

UPDATED: January 15, 2015

God is at work here! On Wednesday, the pastors and youth conferences started and have been going great. We are leading the youth conference with around 200 people attending. This year’s theme is “Live and Love Like Jesus” based on 1 Timothy 4:12. He has been preaching through the book of Mark and showing how we can live and love like Jesus by looking at his life and ministry. We have enlisted the help of local young men to lead the discussion small groups and they are doing a fantastic job.

Members of our team have been leading the pastors through a study of 1Timothy. There are about 70 pastors and deacons that are attending the conference. We have been introducing some helpful hermeneutical tools to the pastors that they can take back to their churches and use in the future. Today, after teaching on 1Timothy 2:1-7, we introduced prayer cards for the unreached. What a powerful and sweet sound to hear the group praying in unison for scores of different people groups!

We have also been leading the children in different lessons and crafts during the conference as well. About 45-50 children have been hearing various Bible stories and a clear Gospel proclamation. After the conference each day, there has been an outdoor crusade in the village. Yesterday, a young man stepped forward and said he wanted to give his life to the Lord! Praise the Lord!

Another exciting story from the conference: there is a specific young man that has been attending the conference this week and hearing the Gospel. We have been able to talk to him, encourage him, and share the Gospel with him. Please pray for this young man! If he were to trust in the Lord, his family would most likely disown him and throw him out. Please pray for him; that God would move in his heart and give him courage to follow him!

The team is tired but doing well! Please continue to pray for strength, good health (we’ve had a few upset stomachs over the last few days), and that people would continue to be encouraged and drawn closer to the Lord through us! We are seeing God at work here and are excited to see what else he has for us.

Thank you for keeping the team in your prayers!


January 12, 2015

On Friday night, we hosted a dinner for the pastors and their wives who will be attending the conference this week. It was a great time of reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. We were able to bless the pastors with monogrammed ties and their wives with beautiful shawls.

Saturday was spent resting and preparing for the rest of our trip. We were grateful for the time to catch up on sleep, prepare for the outreaches and youth conference, and spend time with some of the teens in the church. The time spent with the teens was rich as they learned how to lead Bible studies for the conference this week, practiced crocheting, and learned the rules of basketball.

Sunday we joined the church for their Sunday service. It was lively and filled with worship! The team performed a few songs, but unfortunately, there is no video evidence. Our team leader preached an excellent message on how God views his children and his specific love for each of them. After church, we had lunch and then did a basketball clinic for the teens in the community. The men on the team led a clinic with about 25 teens, but at least 200 men, women and children came to watch and enjoy the games after the clinic. We shared the gospel when the clinic was finished, and we are hoping that many were affected by it. We all loved spending time with everyone at the clinic; whether it was teaching basketball or just talking with the locals. After the clinic we headed over to the local radio station with one of the local pastors to share his testimony over the radio. His testimony was excellent and very encouraging. The rest of the team enjoyed listening to it on the radio back at the guesthouse.

Monday we had a very good time repairing two widow’s homes in nearby villages. The ladies played with children, carried water, and helped the women with cooking. The men shoveled sand, mixed cement and tried to keep the skilled nationals supplied with all they needed. Our team had a long talk with an unbeliever about Jesus. One of the widows whose home was repaired had just been saved and added to the church. She was very grateful!

The whole team is feeling well, although many have not adjusted to the time and are a bit tired. Pease continue to keep us in your prayers.


Share this on:




Pray for the Missions Teams

January 5 2015 at 9:12 am 1 Comments

This month we are sending two teams to serve in western Uganda and Central Asia. One of the best ways we can participate in supporting these teams is to pray for them. Here are some points to help guide our prayers.

Uganda

For almost a decade our church has enjoyed a unique partnership with a group of churches in western Uganda. More than 200 members have traveled there and been powerfully affected by the work that Pastor Moses and his team are doing.

This Wednesday we will send out another group to continue the tradition. Here are some of the things they will be doing during their two-week trip:

—Teaching and sharing testimonies in 10 villages
—Serving hundreds of young people at a four-day youth conference
—Helping repair homes for several widows
—Sharing the good news door to door
—Teaching on the radio
—Teaching local leaders at a four-day seminar
—Loving and encouraging the members in these local churches

Prayer points:

—That everyone would be filled with the love of God and the boldness of the Spirit
—That our team would be given the right words to share in each context
—That they would see God’s power triumph over sickness and evil spirits
—That they would experience the unity of the Spirit from start to finish
—That our team would grow stronger in faith as they step out to in obedience to the Great Commission

Central Asia

For the team headed over to serve:

—Health and safe travels
—Quick adjustment to time change and sound sleep
—Sensitivity to the Spirit
—Words of knowledge, prophetic songs
—Strength to serve with musical gifts
—Flexibility and ease in working with the sound system
—Overflowing hearts of God’s love to share no matter how tried they are

Prayer points for the women attending:

—Pray against any feelings of guilt or comparison that the women attending might feel as they come together and share what God is going in their lives.
—Pray for traveling mercies for all who are coming to the meeting, for no travel delays and easy connections along the way.
—Pray for those leading small groups, break-out sessions, worship, teaching, prayer warriors, logistical helpers, and other volunteers coming to help with child care. Pray especially for our speaker, to be spirit-filled as she shares. 
—Pray for this meeting to be a great encouragement to the women no matter what stage of life they are in presently.
—Pray that each woman will leave the meeting with one tool to use to share her faith and deeper motivation to proclaim the good news more boldly.
—That this would be a time of equipping for all of the women involved.


Share this on:




Page 1 of 15 pages  1 2 3 >  Last ›