Since 2014, what consistently is the third most terrorized country in the world? To find your answer you would want to look up the Global Terrorism Index (GTI). This is produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) based on data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). This data is collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) led by the University of Maryland. As late as 2017, because of persistent Boko Haram and Fulani militant attacks, Nigeria ranks as the third-most terrorized nation. Only Iraq and Afghanistan rank higher in carnage.
Brian dreamed for a long time of building a house for his family on a wooded, five-acre plot of land nestled within the city. Notice I used the word dreamed. Brian did not just want to put up a simple home for his family of five. He wanted to build a ten-thousand square foot ministry center. I remember many of us thought he was overreaching. Why not just build a modest home and then as God provided continue to expand?
I met Lam in a dining facility at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. As we were chatting I asked him when he came to the United States. Lam escaped from Viet Nam at the age of eleven with an uncle and his older brother. His parents were afraid that when he turned thirteen he would be forced to serve in the military and potentially die or come back maimed as so many of their countrymen who were forced as children to fight the Cambodians.
Eighteen of us sat around the circular table in the conference room of the Military Academy located in Gori. For several hours we met with different deputies from the Ministry of Defense and listened as they shared the challenges of living within field artillery range of Russian guns. Their fear of angering their neighbor and again losing their freedom is fueled by Russia’s occupation in 2008 of Abkhazia and South Ossetia—two secessionist territories within Georgia.
Nigeria is a nation of over 146 million people—the largest populated country in Africa. It comprises more than 250 ethnic groups of which the following are the most populous and politically influential: Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, and Tiv 2.5%.* In mass Nigeria is over twice the size of California. The nation is located on the Gulf of Guinea and shares borders with the countries of Benin, Cameroun, Chad and Niger. Our team ministered in the city of Jos which literally means Jesus Our Savior! Jos is part of the Plateau State (Nigeria has 36 states) which sits in the middle of the country.
On the plane from Atlanta to Portland, I sat next to a salesman and a lawyer. We had a great time sharing stories, food and funny video clips during our five hour flight. Matt shared with us that he was headed to Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho to compete in the Ironman competition. On Sunday, his goal is to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles in 12 hours! We pumped him with questions and he shared his training regimen, thrills and spills in past competitions. And then he told us the secret to his perseverance.
On December 30, 2007, President Kibaki, of the Kikuyu tribe, was again sworn in as the winner of the Kenyan Presidential election. According to most reports and the opposition candidate Raila Odinga, of the Luos tribe, the election was rigged and the incumbent should have lost. Immediate fighting broke out across the country. In Eldoret, gangs of youth set fire to an Assembly of God church killing fifty Kikuyus seeking refuge there. This was the first reported attack of a church in Kenyan history.
Felix and Brenda* came into our center for food. She wore the look of a bruised, defeated woman. Felix walked hunched and tired. Somberly he described how gang members in Boise, Idaho robbed them, beating them nearly to death. He subsequently suffered grand mal seizures and Brenda several mini-strokes. They were able to identify only one of their attackers. He was imprisoned for attempted murder and robbery but refused to reveal his accomplices so Felix and Brenda were relocated to protect them for further attack.
For generations the Pokot of Western Kenya crossed into the land of the Karamonjong in Uganda and vice versa. These were not social gatherings or athletic competitions but rather cattle raiding. But unlike the past when both tribes attacked with bows and spears now the Pokot come at night armed with AK47s and pistols. When they raid they slaughter whole villages and then take off with their cattle. Consequently, towns along the border live in fear of losing their lives or livelihood to these bands of ruthless fighters.
Across the world there is no shortage of carnage and fear. How many neighborhoods in our own nation rest uneasily at night? The prospect of warring gangs and drug violence is all too common in many big cities. The demons of lawlessness and murder feast on the shedding of blood and dance to the sounds of wailing sirens.
George Barna is a seasoned pollster and director of the Barna Group. His group’s survey results in 2006 reveal some disturbing trends. Listed below are three of the twelve most significant findings this year.
Acts 4 is a phenomenal chapter in the Bible. Basically it contains the account of Peter and John appearing before the Jewish council of religious leaders to explain by whose power they acted to heal a man lame for over 40 years! Most of the people in Jerusalem had heard about the miracle and the members of the council were amazed at the boldness and eloquence of two fishermen who had been with Jesus. After a day of deliberations the council commanded the apostles never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. Of course Peter and John refused to abide by their terms so the rulers threatened them but because of their fear of starting a riot, let the two men go. Peter and John reported to the church what happened and they went into a time of prayer that was so dynamic the Holy Spirit shook the place!
Angel started her job in July. She looked forward to the opportunity to share Christ with her new coworkers and to utilizing her cooking skills in the popular restaurant on the busy street of MG. A month later, she fought back tears—work was not going as she had expected. When the other girls on her shift learned she was a Christian, many were curious and began to ask her questions, but not Varuni, a tall, woman from Pune. She let Angel know in no uncertain terms that she did not care for Jesus chatter.
Mahesh and Seetha Gopal* were raised in Hindu families. They married and operated a successful business but their lives were unfulfilled until they met Christ. When they chose to follow Jesus they encountered much persecution from their relatives and countrymen. Eventually, they moved away to Wayanad, a city in the hill country of northern Kerala. They bought a piece of land and built a house. Seetha asked her new neighbors if she could draw water until they could afford to dig their own well. But they refused to share with her because she and her husband were Christians. So, everyday, the Gopals had to walk two miles just to get their water.
The angel, Gabriel, clearly told Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth would have a child and they were to call him “John” (Luke 1:13). Nine months later, elderly Elizabeth miraculously conceived this special baby and the neighbors and relatives gathered to celebrate his circumcision and to give him his name. According to well-established custom they assumed he would take the name of his priestly father.
“There is no sun,” the people cried. “Don’t talk to us about sun. Every day it is the same. We can see only so far in front, so far above and that’s the way it is. Life is a mist, soak it up. What we see is far more important than what we don’t see. What we believe is beyond us is of no consequence to what we experience. We do what we want to do and we want to be left alone. When we die we die and so it is better to live for whatever makes us happy.
Growing up we moved a lot. One of the fun challenges of moving was trying to figure out how to fit everything into the U-Haul truck. Watching my Dad, I learned three important principles for packing a truck. First, evaluate what needs to be moved. Whatever is heaviest or large gets packed first (or on the bottom) and some things just need to be left behind or given away. Second, to protect the back from injury, always lift from the legs when carrying heavy or awkward objects. Third, work as a team—don’t try to carry something that is too heavy alone. I suspect those principles have spiritual applications.
Nicolo Paganini, (1782-1840), ranks as one of the greatest violinists of all time. One night while playing a difficult piece of music a string on his violin snapped and hung down from his violin. Surrounded by the orchestra he continued to play. Then a second string broke. Still, this clever musician improvised and continued playing. A third string snapped forever worthless. Undaunted, Paganini played magnificently on the one remaining string before a stunned crowd. When he finished they jumped to their feet screaming and cheering “Bravo! Bravo!” Paganini waited until the noise abated then as everyone sat back down he raised his violin high for everyone to see. The violinist nodded to the conductor to begin the encore. He placed the single-stringed Stradivarius beneath his chin and played one final piece. Can you imagine the buzz of that crowd as they returned home from that concert?!
A small crowd of perhaps a hundred gathered for the tree lighting. Four strands of multicolored lights ran up the 40-foot fir. The air was festive and the mood light. Christmas songs were sung off-key while boys and girls eyes roved frantically for Santa. One after another dignitaries walked forward and gave their remarks. Then the emcee asked the Chaplain to give the blessing.
Most American Christians are familiar with the term “rapture.” The belief that Christians will avoid living through the tribulation is largely attributed to 1 Thessalonians 4:17—“Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord.” The fictional series Left Behindglamorizes this view and reinforces the notion that the church will escape the tribulation.
The air is heavy in John’s study. His youngest son is not happy with his tennis racquet. He wants a new one or to use his dad’s oversized racquet for his upcoming tennis class. John presses David repeatedly on why the racquet he has is not good enough. Tears began to form and tumble down his son’s cheeks. David wrestles with an inward battle John struggles to comprehend. “Son, if you won’t tell me what is wrong, how can I meet your request?” David, with a quivering voice tells him that kids would make fun of his old racquet just like they make fun of him for being short. And then his father, also a short man, understands.