Pray for Our World: China

“By 2030, China will almost certainly have more Christians than any other country”, according to Fenggang Yang, director of the center on religion and Chinese society at Purdue University.  While we do not know the exact number of Christians in China and many keep silent about it, I think we would be surprised to know just how much God is working behind the scenes in China.  Christianity did not appear in China until the 7th century during the Tang dynasty.  Because they were so closed off from the rest of the world, they did not hear about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus until 700 years later.

China is an ancient and complex nation.  It is the third largest state in the world with over 1 billion people, 500 indigenous ethnic groups and 55 nationalities (not including Hong Kong and Taiwan which will be listed separately).  There is strict government control of religious groups, five of which are officially recognized: Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Protestant, and Catholic.  There has been some easing of persecution in recent years.  The state recently recognized that there are over 300 million religious believers and over 50 million Christians in unregistered church networks.  The traditional beliefs of the Chinese are a blend of folk religion, Daoism and Buddhism. About 50% of Chinese are considered non-religious, and the official status of China is atheist.

God has protected and grown the church in China on a scale unforeseen in recent times.  Persecution designed to destroy the church has instead inspired fervent prayer and evangelism.  Since the 1980’s there have been vast networks and communities of believers meeting in house churches.  God has a big plan for China.  In God’s timing, the life and purpose of Jesus’ life will be made known to all in China.  When Jesus died on the cross, he was thinking and praying for those in China, ones who were not even known to much of the rest of the world at that time.

Pray for Our World: Central African Republic

Located directly in central Africa, the country is composed of 80 different ethnic groups. The official languages are French and Sango, which is a trade language used by most of the population.  They have 48% literacy.  Rich in natural resources and minerals, diamonds account for 55% of the exports, though most of the working population are farmers.

76% are Christian and 14% Muslim, with tribal ethnoreligion making up the rest.  The national church seems to be emerging as a witness and service to the people.  National missionaries and agencies are on the increase, indigenous-led ministries are springing up, and Bible translation in mother tongues and literacy in the churches are also progressing.  Half of the population is under the age of 15, so ministry to young people and to women are vital.  Women are just now making inroads into ministry through Christian Women’s Union and Women’s Aglow.  Even Muslim converts to Jesus are considered very influential within their communities.

Pray that the mission efforts and the churches will continue to be a strong beacon of hope for the people of Central Africa, and that they will have a positive impact in the communities.  God is moving in this remote, central part of Africa.

Pray for Our World: Bhutan

Bhutan is a small kingdom in the eastern Himalaya Mountains above India.  The state religion is Buddhism.  Other religions are barely tolerated.  Proselytism is illegal, church buildings are not allowed, and Christians do not receive state benefits available to Buddhist, such as free education.  It is one of the least evangelized nations.  The New Testament has been translated into Dzongha, the national language, but the majority of indigenous languages have no Bible Scriptures.  There is shortwave radio as media, but that is about it.  The Jesus film is used around Bhutan and available in five languages.

There is hope, and we have the promise from God that the whole world will be made known about His Son, Jesus.  Everyone will have an opportunity.  We may not always know the mystery of how God works in this area, but we have the promise that He will.  God is fair in his judgement, God is love, and God is grace.

Pray for Our World: Belgium

Belgium has a particular personal interest for me.  Many of my past co-workers and managers lived in Brussels, the capital of Belgium.  Belgians are highly skilled and educated, and very internationally savvy due to their strategic location in Europe.  Belgium is the capital of the EU and NATO headquarters.  I am also a little partial to Antwerp Belgium diamonds, the so-called diamond capital of the world.

But there are many differences between Belgium and the United States.  Religion is largely irrelevant for Belgians.  Most don’t even think about God.  Over 30% are non-religious or atheist.  The Catholic church is in rapid decline, with only 7% attending mass, and in some areas it is as low as 1%.  The Bible was banned by the Catholic church prior to 1960, and it is just now being reintroduced.

My co-workers would often speak of violence as just being a way of life in Belgium.  It is a very divided nation, and there wasn’t much evidence of hope.  There are centuries of blood and violence spilled on Belgium soil.  And even though it has a strong economy, jobs and opportunities are minimal.  Pray that the Bible will once again emerge as a beacon of hope and truth to this country.

Pray for Our World: Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda are made up of three small islands in the Caribbean.  The economy is tourism, the people are mostly African Caribbean.  It was a British colony for 349 years before gaining its independence in 1981.  They have complete freedom of religion, which is comprised of almost all Christian Protestant.  Though small, they face similar issues that many of us have here in the U.S.  There is complacency, moral and spiritual challenges, and strong ties to money laundering, drug dealing, violence and gambling.

Pray for the safety of the people and that they will not yield to those things that ultimately take away life.  In a world where the truth can sometimes be confusing, we should be glad that Jesus did not mix his words.  He told us exactly what is true and how we can know for certain.  His way is not exclusive to certain people or cultures, but inclusive for all who want it.

Jesus said, “A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10)  “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  (John 14:6)