In his new Blythswood capacity, Balazs has been visiting the Divine Grace University in Moldova, a Blythswood partner there, and also to meet up with Ukrainian partners since the Christian Aid security advisor has told him not to visit Ukraine directly for the time being. The University also functions as a mission school and training college for nurses and social workers with many students from the Stans of the former USSR.
Julien and Cipri prepare to leave the Centre later this month to share an apartment. Damian has been back in the Centre for a week but his attitude has not improved and he may be expelled again.
Blythswood has received a further “winterisation” £450,000 from Christian Aid which has to be spent before the end of February for generators, fuel, wood-burning stoves etc. The communities themselves have to decide how to use the money under the SCLR initiative (Survivor Community-Led Response).
Adi has paid the final bill to the Romanian body of EU funding for cancelling the TK3 and TK4 project for the time being but was able to do it without having to pay a fine, thus leaving open the relaunching of the project at a future date.
Approval granted to 125 churches in Egypt
Barnabas, November 22, 2022
The government of Egypt licensed 125 churches and church-affiliated buildings on 14 November.
It is the 24th batch of approvals made since the government committee overseeing the licensing process started work in 2017.
The decision brings the number of churches granted licences to 2,526 out of the 3,730 that applied for registration after a Law for Building and Restoring Churches abolished Ottoman-era restrictions on church buildings in 2016.
At the committee’s previous meeting in April, members approved 239 churches, their largest batch.
To obtain a licence, churches must prove land ownership and comply with structural and safety regulations, including the provision of fire extinguishers.
Before the committee started work it was extremely difficult for churches to obtain a licence and many congregations had no option but to worship illegally in unlicensed buildings.
In 2018 the government permitted Christians to worship in unregistered buildings pending the completion of the licensing process.
At Drakenstein Maximum Bible study Walter, a long term resident and regular Bible study attendee, objected to another man sitting beside him, got up and sat by himself at the back. Dawn reminded him that, as a follower of Jesus, you are to forgive anyone who offends you. Walter returned to his seat. Later in the class he apologised to the other man. That took – strength and humility.
Ebrahim in Maximum says he’s innocent and it often leaves him very depressed. His wife believes and supports him.
Teswill in Medium A is quietly evangelising, particularly with Smee, a senior general in the 26 prison gang. The Holy Spirit seems to be moving in Smee’s life. Pray for wisdom for Teswill as he relates to Smee.
At the year-end events in Maximum and Medium A, many men came to individually thank Dawn and Hylma for being there all year. They delegated a man to give public thanks and a letter including thanks to our husbands for their support, assuring them we’d be looked after if there was any trouble. Another man, very talented in art, gave each of us an original work of his. At Maximum, Dawn played 3 carols with men of the guitar group and the rest of the men singing along. It was quite something.
A prison officer wanted to talk to Dawn one to one for counselling. They have a very difficult job with great strains on their family lives. Thank God she is there to listen, maybe another great opportunity. She returns to Maximum next week for one-to-ones with 3 men and hopefully a proper chat with the officer.
Fraser is still trying to get the latest NetACT journal issue published before he leaves for the UK. He travels to the UK on Thursday. He is in the Dingwall area from 5th-21st December. He flies home with Dawn on January 18th.
There were concerns from their night supervisor Sergiu that he had detected the smell of marijuana when some of the lads were having a party downstairs but the boys have categorically denied this. The day supervisor Danny has also admitted to the occasional joint. A recent addition to the residents, Darian, evidences an addiction to slot machines and perhaps to drugs and there is concern that he is funding his ‘hobbies’ through shoplifting.
Louisa continues to profit from regular counselling and a Christian Aid guru will do a safeguarding and accountability course with her when she visits Romania next week. Louisa feels she needs more excitement and challenge in her work.
James Campbell, the head of Blythswood, has recently visited Balazs to see their projects in the Ukraine and Romania. Overseas funding has dropped for the Blythswood projects, probably war-weariness in the West, and they plan a new appeal in the New Year. In the meantime, they will be cutting down the number of projects they can support from 14 to 6. Most of the shoe-box distribution will now have to devolve to local groups and churches which receive the bulk of the shoeboxes in Romania and the Ukraine.
Adi will keep TK1 and TK2 separate till the end of the year with 84 mostly Roma primary school and 4 high school children and then relocate the TK1 children to the TK2 building because of heating and lighting costs.
Barnabas Fund, 26 October 2022 (excerpts)
Burkina Faso is in danger from Islamist militants, warned army Captain Ibrahim Traore when he was sworn in as interim president of the country on 21 October.
“We are confronted with a security and humanitarian crisis without precedent,” said Traore, who ousted his predecessor, the military leader Paul-Henri Damiba, in a coup on 30 September.
“Our aims are none other than the reconquest of territory occupied by these hordes of terrorists,” he added. “Burkina’s existence is in danger.”
Damiba himself had seized power in January, forcing out Burkina Faso’s last elected president, Roch Kabore.
Both coups resulted from anger among soldiers at the authorities’ failure to curtail Islamist groups who have carried out relentless attacks on civilians, many of them targeted at Christians, at the cost of thousands of lives.
Since 2015, jihadi violence has spread from neighbouring Mali and Niger to affect most regions of Burkina Faso, particularly the north and north-east.
It is estimated that Islamist groups control at least 40 per cent of the country and that two million people have been forced from their homes because of the insurgency.
More than 6,000 schools are shut, 50,000 teachers are without work, many thousands of children have no education, the terrorists prevent people from farming and carry away all the cattle.
Everything seems to be in place for Fraser’s trip to Lesotho next week. One of the trainees is so keen that he has already started using the software.
Ryan Faber, an American missionary based in Zambia, has agreed to take responsibility for updating contact details for the NetACT community.
Dawn’s session at Maximum was again cancelled, this time because there was no member of staff available to sit in with the Bible study.
The Drakenstein Prison Commissioner is not friendly towards spiritual work within the prisons and has the capacity to block many things. Pray that she’ll see how God can make an unimaginable difference in the lives and behaviour of the men, that she’ll rise above the character she’s displaying at the moment and that whatever makes her hostile will be overcome by God’s healing touch.
We still don’t know if the twice postponed Restorative Justice process at Drakenstein Medium A will go ahead from November 28th. Sometimes the inmates lob difficult questions at Dawn and Hylma. Pray for wisdom and the ability to communicate clearly.
Pray for Alfred in Medium A who longs to break the cycle of prison – release – prison in his life. He has never had a South African ID number and South Africa is a country where it’s hard to do anything without your ID card.
A man whom Dawn was trying to help get over alcohol problems has starting drinking again to the dismay of his family. Pray for wisdom for Dawn as she tries to help.
Barnabas Fund, 4 October 2022 (excerpts)
Ashwini Upadhyay has requested India’s Supreme Court to implement a nationwide anti-conversion law. The court on 23 September asked the federal government to submit a response to the petition by 14 November.
Upadhyay argued that “The injury caused to the citizens is extremely large because there is not even one district which is free of religious conversion by ‘hook and crook’.”
11 Indian states have anti-conversion laws that criminalise seeking converts through force, fraud or allurement. These are often misused by extremists as or an excuse for attacking Christians and Muslims.
A similar petition from Upadhyay in the Delhi High Court was dismissed for lack of evidence earlier this year. On that occasion the two High Court judges asked, “Where are the statistics? How many conversions happened? Who is converted? You say mass conversion is happening, where is the number?”
Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva also opined that “conversion is not prohibited in law”, and that the “right to choose and profess any religion” is “a constitutional right”.
India’s higher courts have a consistent recent record of upholding the rights of Christians. In March 2022 the Supreme Court rejected a request to monitor the activities of Indian evangelists, declaring to the petitioners, “You are actually disturbing the harmony with these kinds of petitions.”
As Fraser hasn’t been back in the UK since November 2017 we planned for him to go for a few weeks in December/January. Due to expense, Dawn was going to remain in South Africa. The Lord is very kind. Some South Africans were concerned that we would be apart, so offered to buy a ticket for Dawn.
Fraser’s trip to the Theological Seminary in Lesotho is now set for 7th to 11th November. Unless the South African Department of Home Affairs gets our new visas organised before then, he will be travelling across international borders (and back, hopefully) on the receipt for our visa applications. We have been assured it’ll be recognised but it still feels like an act of faith.
Dawn was expecting to be part of Restorative Justice in Drakenstein Medium A this week but it has been postponed again until the last week in November. Pray that the inmates who’d been expecting to take part will not be discouraged and that these extra weeks will be times of fruitful preparation for them and the ministry team.
Pray for the leadership and team of Hope Prison Ministry. We all have different ideas about how things should be done. May the light of Christ shine overwhelmingly through each person.
The usual Tuesday Bible studies at Drakenstein were cancelled too today. Pray that the men will not be cast down but will be able to draw strength from their individual relationships with Jesus.
Some people may regard the postponement of the RJ as an opportunity to accumulate health and strength: Dawn sees it as more of a chance to catch something else.
Cipri and Julian have been preparing to ease into independent living but Cipri is perhaps beginning to have cold feet. Damien has returned to the Daniel Centre but his attitude is not good. He has called the police to complain about two of the other lads but the police have fortunately seen through his scheming.
Louisa has been profiting from more regular counselling over her expectations of her colleagues.
The older Ukrainian lady in the Centre apartment has found a new calling as a cook for the Daniel Centre and prepares two meals a week for the lads. An interesting chemistry is developing between herself and the lads as they enjoy and react to her angry Russian language outbursts which they don’t understand.
Balazs has completed his report on how the first phase of Christian Aid money was used in the Ukraine and the second year of Christian Aid money for the Ukraine has now been granted.
Adi is seriously considering having to close the TK2 building and the Talita Kum project for 2 months in the winter because the cost of heating and lighting the building is expected to rise from £1500 to £9000 a month.
A brave life lived for Christ
Brother Andrew (1928-2022)
Barnabas Fund 3 October 2022 (excerpts)
The death of Brother Andrew is a salutary moment for those of us supporting and championing the cause of persecuted Christians throughout the world.
Born Anne van der Bijl, in Holland, he became known as Brother Andrew – or “God’s Smuggler” – who delivered Bibles behind the Iron Curtain to the underground Church.
His work led to the founding of Open Doors ̶ which he chaired until 1995, around the same time that Barnabas came into being.
The inspiration we take from the life of Brother Andrew is threefold.
Firstly, he loved so much that he was prepared to take great risks for the people he served.
Secondly, he prized the Word of God greatly.
Thirdly, he lived a brave life trusting only in the Lord for his safety.
His wife Corry died in 2018; they are survived by five children and 11 grandchildren.