Fraser helped facilitate an online meeting last week for over 100 Principals of Bible colleges, theological colleges and seminaries to discuss collaboration, sustainability, and the practicalities of online education, and especially to listen to the African viewpoint.
Dawn attended the first general Hope Prison Ministry meeting since lockdown in Cape Town yesterday. The prisons are still closed to visitors; pray that a way for ministry teams to return would be found. The lockdown has imposed stresses on many relationships, including those of ex-inmates who now work for the ministry.
Edward Stoffels, the ex-Drakenstein inmate, is still trying to live faithfully in a God-honouring way but must find somewhere else to live by the end of the month.
It’s heart-breaking when people who really intend to live honest lives find themselves in situations where the temptation to fall back into criminal activities is too great for them.
Our South African visas expire at the end of October. We had planned to have the renewal process well advanced but covid19 put paid to that. Please pray there will be no hitches in the granting of visas for the next two years.
Ruth started her new degree course this week, James’ final year begins soon as well.
Jihadi attacks in the DRC
Barnabas Fund, 15 September 2020
At least 58 people were killed and 17 kidnapped when Muslim militants attacked two villages in the mainly-Christian north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo in early September.
Twenty-three people were murdered on 8 September and another 35 were killed two days later. Large numbers of the population have since fled.
Members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist militant group active in the region for more than two decades, are thought to have carried out the atrocity. The terrorist group had entered the region to escape military action against them in neighbouring North Kivu province.
More than 700 people have been killed in Ituri province since 2017, according to the UN. The north-east region has seen a surge of violence since October 2019, when the army launched a large-scale offensive against the ADF.
When residents are first accepted by the Daniel Centre, they are given a 6 or 9 month contract. These contracts are then renewed as necessary according to the needs and attitudes of the individual residents
István, Soreen and Alix are now, willingly or unwillingly, coming to the end of their time there and will only have their contracts renewed with difficulty. André, who came in July, now has a job and is a stable addition to the Centre.
Balazs hopes that they may be able to qualify for some of the €1 billion EU fund to help develop the depot where the Blythswood Charity Shop currently stands to release more sustainable cash in future from rentals.
Adi has had two good summer camps, one in relation to Talita Kum for primary school children and the other a more secular camp for artists.
TK1 and TK2 return to business in the next couple of weeks but the school situation in Romania is currently quite chaotic with teachers and pupils alike not knowing quite what to expect or what the rules are.
The rate of increase in Covid cases has now flattened.
Last Friday, Fraser ‘electronically hosted’ an online Zoom meeting of all the NetACT College Principals from across Africa, live-streamed it on YouTube, and facilitated various text-based discussion forums. There were over 60 in ‘attendance’ and the afternoon went very well.
A second Zoom meeting for the Portuguese-speaking colleges, was quite a challenge for the translator who listened to the main Zoom meeting on one device and translated for the Portuguese group on a different device.
Fraser was delighted that all 50 NetACT partners sent in a response to a questionnaire regarding the post-Covid19 future of theological education in Africa.
The next stage is a joint meeting, planned for Wednesday 9th September, with as many other Bible colleges, theological colleges, and seminaries as possible.
Prisons are working at half-numbers and were short-staffed even before covid19 hit. Security could so easily be compromised through fatigue, burnout, temptation, and violence. The majority of wardens do their best with little appreciation under difficult circumstances. It is especially challenging for women wardens in male prisons.
The general impression here is that many people are too important to be held to account. Pray for courage, integrity, and protection for those in a position to stand for good leadership and honesty.
Both Dawn and Fraser are still experiencing some of the after-effects of their bouts with (suspected) covid19. Pray for their restoration to health, especially lungs and stamina.
Jihadi militants take 100s hostage in Nigeria
Barnabas Fund, 27 August 2020
22 trucks loaded with heavily armed jihadists thundered into a mainly-Christian town in north-eastern Nigeria, with the militants taking hundreds hostage on August 18th.
The Islamic State West Africa Province terrorist group, an off-shoot of Boko Haram, captured local people as they fled and launched an attack on a nearby military station protecting the town.
The 1,200 residents had only recently returned to their home town near the border with Lake Chad, after spending 2 years in refugee camps 120 miles to the south in the state capital.
The residents had returned full of hope to restart their lives and cultivate their farmlands “only to end up in the hands of the insurgents”.
Local government authorities had declared the town safe and ordered the residents to return under a military escort.
In the past two years, some two million internally displaced people (IDPs) have been repatriated to towns in the north-east. But many IDPs are wary that jihadists still have a foothold and it remains unsafe for them to return.
Most residents come from the Child Protection services in the area around Cluj. The Centre takes residents who are borderline emotional cases, one of the few institutions taking young people in this category. The Centre has now had about 120 residents over its 20-year existence. The big majority of those have left with a positive attitude towards the Centre. Only a few, however, have been emotionally stable enough to go on to have families of their own.
István has now left the Centre to live with his aunt, but already regretting the move. Soreen has quit his job and may also have to leave the Centre. Alix, who has been resident since 2015, has improved in attitude and may be getting a new job as night watchman with a security company. The new resident André who came in July, seems to be a more open-minded young man.
Progress in developing the depot for renting and in selling the property by the airport is quite slow.
Adi is coming towards the end of his summer camp with 30 children ranging in age from Primary 1 to Primary 8.
NetACT hope to have the first issue of their African Theological Journal for Church and Society online by early September.
The NetACT office staff are discussing how to capitalise on the enthusiasm raised by the Barnabas Fund conference on Online Theological Education a couple of weeks ago. Pray that attendees will see how to creatively use what they learned. Fraser meets with the Hugenote College admin to discuss how to progress with their online learning platform.
Recently Boko Haram threats have greatly increased in severity and detail in Nigeria. Pray for the Nigerians who facilitate InReach: that Boko Haram would not find them, that their evil schemes would be thwarted and that they would encounter Jesus in a powerful and life-changing way.
As ministry inside the prisons is not permitted at the moment, Dawn has contacted a local initiative giving the unemployed opportunities and opening their eyes to the value they have in God’s sight. From first impressions it could be a good fit.
Our internet access has been very poor for a while but give thanks that the internet is working properly again.
Pakistani Christian arrested for “blasphemy”
Barnabas Fund, 14 August 2020
An angry Muslim mob forced its way into a Pakistan police station on 5 August after a Christian man was arrested for alleged “blasphemy” in Punjab province.
Sohail Masih was accused by a local Muslim leader of insulting Islam in a Facebook post.
A crowd gathered outside the police station became enraged when they heard that a case had not been registered against Sohail, and some forced their way inside.
Sohail was later charged with “defiling the name” of Muhammad, which carries the death penalty.
Even when accused Christians have been cleared of blasphemy of “blasphemy” allegations, it may never be safe for them to return home because of the threat from the local Muslim community.
To date no one has been executed under the “blasphemy” law, but a number of Christians and others have received death sentences.
István is still somewhat disconnected from reality. The new Alix now has a gas station job. Cipri is physically more stable and profiting from psychiatric help. The brothers Daniel and Gaby have good jobs but unhappy with them – Daniel wants to continue High School studies. The old Alix is on a 2-month ultimatum to leave the Centre – he may change work as he has back problems from lifting heavy white goods in his delivery job. He may move out with another of the resident who qualifies for a mortgage.
There are bureaucratic delays in developing the depot which houses the charity shop. By re-developing the depot, two new rental properties will be made available.
Dani continues to be encouraged by his sessions with psychologist counselling on his work.
Adi now has an end-of-August deadline for re-submitting his application for EU funding for running costs for TK1 and TK2. The TK3 and TK4 developments now face cost swell beyond the original estimates.
The 1-week summer camp for 40 children starts on August 20th.
TK1 and TK2 await government directions on handling school re-openings in the current health situation.
New Covid cases in Romania are now at 1500 daily.
Two weeks ago was the first time for the Daniel Centre to have all their lads in employment. István has since resigned his job at Carrefour as he was under pressure for being too slow. A new lad, Alix, has since joined the Centre and is not yet in work. Cipri has started having faints and is a cause for concern.
The Centre’s re-licensing application has been submitted on time and progress has been made on selling the adjoining site for flat developments. There is also movement on selling the airport property. Blythswood will soon be closing their charity shop in Cluj as it has been loss-making over the past 6 months, rather than a source of funding for the Daniel Centre.
Dani is encouraged in his interactions with the lads and has a psychologist now giving him regular feedback and counselling on his work.
Adi can now re-submit an application for EU funding for running costs for TK1 and TK2 after his initial application was turned down last year. The TK3 and TK4 developments are still at the stage of waiting for planning permits.
The schools are still closed but Adi now has funding in place for a 1-week summer camp in the mountains for 40 children.
Because of a legislative 2-week black hole where it was deemed illegal to impose self isolations for the Covid crisis, Romania has now seen an upward spike in new cases to over 1000 a day.