Pray for Our World: Vietnam

Vietnam is a long narrow country occupying the entire eastern and southern coastline of Indochina, including China, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia. Decades of war followed by Marxist economics and then the loss of Soviet financial backing, has left the economy in complete shambles. They are the world’s second largest rice exporter, and seafood exports are also very crucial. Vietnam gained independence from France in 1954, followed by 30 years of war, and then reunified North and South under the Communist Party in 1975. Churches must be registered but most are denied by the Bureau of Religious Affairs and Religion Police. Over half the population is Buddhist, about one-fourth are non-religious, and 9% Christian.

The church is growing in Vietnam. Much of this is attributed to Vietnamese diaspora. These converts bring the gospel back to Vietnam from other places. There is a great need for Bibles in the languages of the Vietnamese people. An increasing number of Bibles are being printed and released with permission from the government, but there is still a shortage. Pray that they will receive the much-needed Bibles in their own languages so they may know the story of God for themselves.

Pray for Our World: Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is an old country in the middle of the central Asian countries.  They have close economic ties to Russia and many leave to work in Russia. It is also the main transshipment nation for the drug trade from Afghanistan to Russia and on to Europe.  It is a secular state promoting a moderate and tightly controlled form of Islam.  Christians receive harsh treatment and proselytizing of Muslims is illegal. While the number of believers is increasing there, the majority of Muslims are unreached and have never heard the gospel. Each Muslim group in the country has less than .1% Christian among them.  Pray that they will be able to hear the gospel through means of internet, radio, and the Jesus film.

How can they believe if they have not heard, and how can they hear without someone telling them? (Romans 10:14)

Pray for Our World: Turkey

Turkey is in two continents, with 3% in Europe and 97% in Asia.  Its strategic position of being located on the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea has made it of prime importance throughout history.  The Turkish Ottoman Empire once stretched across North Africa, Western Asia and Southeast Europe, but WW I led to its demise and fragmentation and also the birth of modern Turkey. Turkish society is split – it is secular yet Muslim.

For over one thousand years, Turkey was a bastion of Christendom.  Mt. Ararat, the place where Noah’s ark landed, is located in Turkey, but is closed off from most of the world.  Much of the activity of the New Testament apostles was located in Turkey.  The ancient city of Antioch, now called Antakya, is where Paul and Barnabas preached, and it is there that the disciples were first called “Christians”.  Much of Paul’s missionary journeys were in Turkey, and he wrote his letters to the assemblies in Turkey: Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians.  The book of Acts records a lot of this history.

Turkey later became a strong propagator of Islam.  Christians have since declined from 22% in 1900 to .21% today.  Few Muslims today have ever heard the gospel or the teachings of Paul.  The ancient churches have nearly been wiped out by massacres, persecution and emigration over the years.  Pray for the remnant that survives, and for a re-kindling of the Christian faith among this ancient and special place.

Pray for Our World: Timor Leste

Cristo Rei overlooking Timor Leste

Timor Leste is in the eastern half of Timor island, west of Indonesia. It may be small but has a big story. It was ignored by the Portuguese during their rule from 1511 to 1974, then developed by the Indonesian military as a place for the elite, and recently destroyed in vengeance after the vote for independence in 1999, destroying 75% of the infrastructure and economy before the UN intervened. The new nation faces major rebuilding.  The majority have experienced invasion, suppression, famine, lack of health facilities and poverty.

It is only one of two Asian nations that has a Catholic majority. Catholic agencies helped serve at the forefront of the mercy ministries to the desperate during the time of invasion. Protestants are viewed more with suspicion since most come from Indonesia. Pray that the churches will unite and help spread a gospel of hope, aid and love to the people of Timor Leste.

Pray for Our World: Thailand

Thailand has been a kingdom since the 13th century, has the longest reigning monarchy, and never been ruled by a Western power.  Thailand is a Buddhist state but they do have freedom of religion.  Only one percent are Christian, but it is growing.  The Thai culture is tolerant and relaxed, and I found the people to be very polite on my visit there.  The young people like American things – music, clothes, shopping, but there are not many American women who visit there, and so my female co-workers and I quickly became a tourist attraction on our visit.  People were eager to ask us about American movies, especially Elvis and John Wayne, and they asked my co-worker, who is African-American, if she was Obama’s wife.  They thought we were rich, though they didn’t ask us for money.  It was an eye-opening experience to a different culture.

I loved the climate and the people, but for Christianity to take root in a Buddhist culture that has stood for centuries, Christians must understand and be sensitive to Buddhist worldviews.  Buddhists believe that you should not to try to change your fate in life, even if you live in poverty, because suffering in this life is essential to being reincarnated into a better next life. You have to pay your dues, so to speak. This thinking is counter-intuitive to the Christian view of helping the poor, charitable aid, and having a new life through Jesus Christ.  It becomes a struggle for them to understand the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Pray that they may know that Jesus Christ has already died for them and been resurrected, so that they can have a better life now and for eternity in heaven.