Louisa leaves the Daniel Centre in mid-March for a Hungarian government youth programme, so Balazs has been advertising for a replacement.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has visited their partners in the Ukraine safely despite advice to the contrary.
They await a completion certificate to complete the sale of their Cluj depot tomorrow.
Balazs has his reporting for Christian Aid to complete at beginning of March and Christian Aid’s Chief Financial Officer will visit the 3 Ukrainian partners next month.
With 2 new lads coming in, they now have a full Daniel Centre – and without any drug issues for the first time in a long time.
Balazs and new Blythswood CEO Jeremy Ross and their wives will visit Cornerstone in Mumbai, India for 4 days in early April and then, also with Jeremy, Serbia and perhaps the 2 Roma churches in Bulgaria in late April. In May, James and Jeremy will be in Romania to meet with all the Eastern Union Blythswood leaders for James’s farewell as the Blythswood CEO though he wil remain as chairman of Blythswood Romania for the time being.
Work continues to go well for Adi in Jimboliya. He is still running remedial work for half a dozen older girls in Talita Kum 3 though no building work is envisaged for that programme for now.
Fraser’s Kenyan visa application has been approved and he travels next week. He has identified a server problem and put a temporary work-around in place. He needs to balance the competing claims on his time and clear his in-tray before his trip to Kenya.
May the men in the Maximum Bible study learn about dealing with conflict and put it into practice as necessary.
The first ocarina lesson at Drakenstein Maximum was very well received. Ten men were delighted with their new instruments and Dawn’s not seen as many smiles from men and even passing warders in Maximum before. In a place of so much darkness, fear, cruelty, selfishness, misery, and despair, thank God for this opportunity for light, joy, sharing, and creativity.
Bad acoustics, accents and quiet voices can make it hard to know what men are saying in Maximum and Medium A as Dawn tries to respond appropriately to them.
Wiekus in Maximum was being tormented by a man in his room. He now praises the Lord and thanks everyone for their prayers – things have changed in ways he couldn’t have imagined. The man has become more considerate. He even asked Wiekus’ opinion on a film to be shown on the room television. He then admitted that he’d enjoyed the Christian film. Now Wiekus has no desire to move cells, instead seeing fresh opportunities for relationships and witness to unbelievers in the room he’s in.
The Gang Restorative Justice orientation/finding out meeting is on Monday next week. The first day proper will be Thursday. May lives be changed – God is preparing the way, pray Dawn and Ashley won’t let him down.
Steadfast Global, 23rd February 2024
A Vietnamese Christian was given a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence on 26 January after being convicted of ‘secession and incitement’ for holding prayer meetings in his house. According to local media reports, Nay Y Blang (48) who is a member of the Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ, was denied access to legal representation during the hearing.
The trial of ten Christians accused of illegal business operations in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia finally concluded on 8 January. The charges stem from the resale, at a loss, of Bibles purchased from the Three-Self Church. One of the accused, Wang Honglan, spoke in court and while admitting giving away Bibles, she denied that she had committed a crime. The prosecutor is seeking a sentence of at least 5 years for Honglan and others.
Christian man, Fanson Shahid (56) has been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of blasphemy on 26 January. Mr. Shahid, who is from Lahore, was arrested in March 2022 after he was accused of making derogatory remarks about the prophet of Islam on social media. His family are seeking help to lodge an appeal against the sentence.
The parents of four young children were murdered on 2 February in an attack believed to have been motivated by their recent conversion from Islam to Christianity. According to neighbours, Twaha Namwoyo (38) and his wife Nadiimu Katooko (27), were killed outside their home in the village of Bulalaka by a group of people who were heard talking in both Arabic and the local language.
Balazs had just returned on Sunday from his trip to Kenya with James Campbell on his final visit there, so had not yet caught up on Daniel Centre news though Dani reported no major issues during his 10-day absence.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is due to visit their partners in the Ukraine, Serve Now and Light of Reformation, in coming months as titular head of Christian Aid.
They are due to sign the contract for the sale of their Cluj depot tomorrow, 24th January, at the lower end of the price they were asking.
James Campbell had accompanied Balazs for good visits to Sargy and Pamoja school and orphanage projects in Kenya as part of his farewell months as CEO of Blythswood. The two schools have now been granted provisional accreditation to open intermediate years 7, 8 and 9. Sargy was rated top of 40 schools on the island of Rusinga.
Balazs then continued, on his own, to visit the Worldwide Outreach Christian radio station in Burundi that Blythswood supports, and which supplies coverage to Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania as well as having a Health Centre in Burundi, mainly for HIV sufferers.
Being just back from Africa, Balazs had not yet had an update from Adi in Jimboliya.
Thank God that all travelling was completed safely. The visa waiver was extended until the end of June 2024.
One of Fraser servers crashed this week, the last data restore point he can find is September 2023. He needs a crucial file from after this date. Please pray. With God all things are possible, including IT solutions.
Dawn is preparing for the prison Bible studies and music sessions. Pray that those who need and would benefit most get the chance to get one of the spaces.
Ministering to prisoners is great, but far better to help people leave crime than pick up the pieces in prison once lives have been wrecked. Ashley, a prison ministry colleague and ex-drug-dealer/gangster, wants to offer a Restorative Justice programme for gang members still in the community and has asked Dawn to be involved.
We would do the same RJ things with different gangs around Wellington. Prisoners have said, “If only I had been shown these things years ago, my life would have been very different.” After the individual gang sessions, we hope to offer a united support group.
Pray for a place to meet, funds, printing and for other groups to allow us use what they’ve developed – to serve the same God and work towards the same goal.
Last week, we met one gang member. The others had jobs on local farms. Few want a criminal life; many feel they have no choice. Ashley’s life, completely changed since he met Jesus, is a witness to the possibilities of what can be achieved with God’s help.
Dawn held the Bible study in Drakenstein Medium A today on Depression, how to recognise it and help both others and yourself. A prisoner told of how even warders confide in him and ask him to pray for them because they see how he lives for Jesus.
Steadfast Global, 26th January 2024
Christians in Al Jazirah state, south of Khartoum have been subjected to attacks and harassment since the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) seized control of the main city, Wad Medani on 18 December. One Christian, Karbino Bla succumbed to his injuries on 5 January after being badly beaten by the militants on 1 January. There have been reports of murder, rape and looting and on 12 January, militants set fire to a city church, destroying Bibles, chairs, and documents. The RSF has been fighting the Sudanese Armed Forces since April 2023.
Four Christians, including a pastor and a police orderly were abducted in Katsina-Ala County, Benue state, around 06:30 on 13 January as they travelled to a funeral. Fulani herdsmen and other terrorists are suspected of ambushing the vehicle in which Rev. Haanongon Gideon was travelling along with his assistant Ior Silas Yuhwam.
Two Nourmohammadi Christian brothers, Alireza and Amir, were freed on 11 January after spending 4 weeks in detention. The men were arrested in Karaj during raids on 11 December along with fellow believer Mildad Goodarzi. Mildad was released after a few hours but was told to expect a summons for further investigation. Alireza and Amir were finally released after submitting to bail of around £2,450 each. They both anticipate being formally charged for their Christian activities.
Steadfast Global, 22nd December 2023
Please pray for a group of Christians in this region who have been detained along with many of their family members after a sensitive video was shared on social media. In protests that followed, furious Muslims called for the death of Christians and the burning of their homes. For security reasons, we have been asked not to share details of the location of this incident.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has published an update: Assessing Blasphemy in Pakistan. The report notes that according to “advocacy groups, more than 2,100 people have been accused of blasphemy in Pakistan since 1987, with 40 currently on death row and at least 89 killed by mobs for blasphemy accusations”. We welcome this continued focus on the misuse of blasphemy laws and echo the USCIRF call for the Government of Pakistan to repeal the legislation.
We have yet to hear if the hearing scheduled for last Tuesday, 19 December, in the case against Christian healthcare worker Rhoda Jatau, went ahead as scheduled. We understand there may have been a delay that will now push the hearing into 2024.
Rhoda, from northern Nigeria, is approaching her 500th day in prison where she awaits the continuation of her trial for alleged blasphemy. She was arrested on May 20, 2022, after allegedly forwarding a video condemning the mob lynching of Deborah Samuel, a Christian student from Sokoto, a few days earlier. Court hearings in her case are repeatedly postponed.
Freedom In Chains in China (excerpts)
Steadfast Global, 28th November 2023
In February 2023, John Cao’s mother met with him face-to-face for the first time in three years. She reported he was in good health, and that he was thankful for his international friends.
Pastor John Cao served as a missionary in Myanmar’s Wa State, transforming the lives of more than 2,000 impoverished minority children by building 16 schools and working to fight poverty in the region. Chinese officials knew that he repeatedly crossed the border between China and Myanmar because of his work and allowed him to do so for three years.
However, on March 5, 2017, authorities in China’s Yunnan province intercepted Cao and his colleague, Jing Ruxia, and placed them in prison on illegal border crossing charges, even though they had never had trouble before. Later, they changed Cao’s charge to “organizing illegal border crossings,” and he was sentenced to seven years in prison in March 2018.
Those observing Cao’s case believe that his imprisonment does not come from the violation of any border law, but rather arose from China’s ongoing campaign to suppress the Chinese church.
Officials only permitted Cao’s family’s lawyer, his 83-year-old mother, and his sister to hear the verdict. One source reports that Pastor Cao has been experiencing health challenges and that he’s lost more than 50 pounds. In August, CCP authorities transferred John to prison in Kunming, the capital and largest city of Yunnan Province.
A United Vision for Northern Iraq (excerpts)
Steadfast Global, 28th November 2023
Our work to help Christians in the Kurdistan region of Iraq commenced within weeks of the fall of Mosul to Islamic State in June 2014. The flood of refugees into this region was almost without precedent and UNHCR camps were quickly erected to try and cope with the influx of humanity. While these camps became the new home for the Yazidi people group, Shia Muslims and a small number of Christians, our distinct call was to assist the large Christian refugee community which had sought shelter across a number of Christian villages in and around the city of Dohuk.
Working with trusted Kurdistan based partners, we commenced our relief effort sending funds to provide food, clothing, shelter, medicines, and fuel. This developed into meeting a pressing need for sanitation to help in the villages which were now bursting at the seams, and the facilitation of medical clinics for the refugees, with volunteers from the UK and beyond working alongside local healthcare professionals.
To this end we have launched projectRECYCLE, an initiative by Steadfast Global and Northern Iraq based partners, Zalal Life Society, a Christian ministry holding official registration in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, to provide a common-sense housing solution for Christian families who have been displaced from their homes in Mosul and the disputed Nineveh Plain villages into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Steadfast Global and Zalal Life Society encourage all those sympathetic to the crisis to embrace this project as a viable common-sense and cost-effective solution to stem the haemorrhage of Christians out of Northern Iraq and specifically, the Kurdistan region.