Pray for Our World: Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country and dominates central Asia between Russia and China, and is a large trade route between the east and west.  They were under communist rule and suppression of all religion until the collapse of the USSR in 1991.  Today only traditionally recognized religious groups can operate freely, but there are still strong laws that suppress Christians.

The Kazakh church has continued to grow from virtually no believers in 1990 to about 15,000 in 2010.  There is a great demand for Bibles both among the Kazakhs and the Russians.  However more translations and access are needed.  Pray for the translation and distribution of Bibles to a people that are hungry for it yet do not have it.  I wish we would all have such a hunger for the Bible, especially for those of us who could walk into almost any store and pick up one for just a few dollars.

Jesus promises to all who are searching, “Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

Pray for Our World: Japan

Japan has one of the world’s most powerful export economies, but was heavily affected by the 2008-2009 worldwide recession.  Low birth rates and an aging population are major societal and economic concerns for the future.  Though there is freedom of religion, over 70% of Japanese claim no personal religion, and most follow the rituals of ancestor-venerating Buddhism and polytheistic Shintoism.  There are very few Christians.  Christianity is still considered an outside, western religion rather than a universal faith, despite 500 years of Christian presence in Japan.  It is the largest unevangelized nation, even though they are completely open to missionaries.  It is very difficult for missionaries to be effective across socio-cultural and linguistic barriers.  To reach the Japanese, there needs to be a new way of doing church that does not rely on western traditions or forms of worship, but speaks to 21st century Japan.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to escort a young Japanese co-worker around our office for a few days.  He had never been to the U.S. before.  I gave him my best southern hospitality, but quickly realized the cultural differences were too much of a shock for him.  Though we both spoke English and worked for the same company, we could not communicate well at all.  He did not understand our ways, he was terribly scared of guns which he saw in the first store he visited, and he eventually retreated to his hotel room until it was time to leave.  I have met co-workers from many countries all over the world, but the Japanese have the hardest communication barrier.

Japan is changing, with social and economic changes that are challenging the status quo. There is also uncertainty about their future.  With all of this, it has prompted more spiritual searching among the youth.  Pray that the Japanese will see that Jesus Christ came for all, died for all, and He crosses all cultural and social barriers.

Pray for Our World: Jamaica

Jamaica is a large mountainous island in the Caribbean.  Jamaica has a wonderful Christian heritage, and one of the highest number of churches per square mile with several Bible schools and seminaries.  However, gangs and drug cartels have also brought high crime, violence and drugs to the country.

The Rastafarians is a common religion in Jamaica, characterized by the colors green, gold, red and black that you see in Jamaican hats, symbols and clothing.  It is a mix of Christian beliefs, black consciousness ideas, and social movement.  Dreadlocks, reggae music (popularized by Bob Marley), the use of marijuana, and their peace and love philosophy are all part of Rasta.  Though it all may sound good, they do not follow the Christian God.  Bob Marley sang a song called The Redemption Song, which hints of a spiritual longing and searching.  It is said that Bob Marley wanted to convert to Christianity but the people around him convinced him otherwise, as it would not be good for his popularity or their wallet. The story goes that Bob Marley later converted to Christianity and was baptized before he died.  I hope he is singing that true Redemption song in heaven today.  Our earthly rewards will be quickly gone and forgotten, but our eternal decisions will live on forever.

Pray that the Jamaicans will be able to reclaim their country from the crime and violence and drugs that is taking away our youth and true freedoms.

Pray for Our World: Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran (formerly Persia from the Bible) is a desert region that strategically surrounds the borders of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Iraq, Caspian Sea, and Persian Gulf.  A wealthy country in oil and natural gas, 80% is export earnings and only 20% is private sector.  28% of the young people are unemployed.  The theocratic Islamic Republic was declared in 1979 after the Shah was deposed in the Shi’ite Muslim Revolution.  It is a religious dictatorship.  The courts can impose a death sentence to male apostates, and life in prison for female apostates.

The most amazing thing that has come out of the dictator revolution is that the forced Muslim regime has left many Iranians disillusioned about the religion and more open to the Gospel than ever before.  Massive numbers of Muslims have recently been coming to Jesus.  Never since the 7th century has the Church in Persia grown so fast as post-1979, and even more amazing for a country that imposes the death sentence for doing this.  There have been numerous stories of dreams and visions, signs and wonders, happening in the underground church.  I have heard some of them myself directly from Iranians who have escaped to the U.S.  These people risk everything in search of hope and meaning in life.  One man I spoke with had literally been chased from his home with only the clothes on his back, to escape to Turkey where he could be baptized.  “I never knew that God could be my Father!  My Father!”, he exclaimed with tears of joy and relief in his eyes as he told his story.

Pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to move in this country, to shed a light to the darkness.  Pray for the underground churches and the new Christians.  May the people know the true joy and hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ.  It would be a shame to keep such knowledge from them, when we know and have the truth with us every day.  Do not take it for granted!  Do not keep it hidden.

Pray for Our World: Indonesia

Indonesia has over 6,000 inhabited islands, vast coral reefs, and is the world’s fourth most populous nation.  The service industry is their largest employer, and they make about 5% of the USA’s income per person.  They were under colonial rule by the Portuguese in the 1500’s, then Dutch, British, and finally Japanese from 1942-1945.  They gained their independence after WWII.  Indonesia has many challenges still to overcome – previous political threats, militant Islamist groups, poor human rights record, overpopulation, and several natural disasters of earthquakes, tsunamis and flooding which have killed over 200,000 people since 2001.

There is also a spiritual war in Indonesia that seeks to eliminate Christianity from the country.  Ancient and strong occult powers oppose the influence of the gospel, and modern Muslims have an Islamist vision of an Indonesia without Christians, which results in pressure and persecution of Christians, violence and destruction, and elimination of religious freedom.  Pray that the Good News of Jesus Christ will reach the people through the means of Bible translations, Christian literature, missionaries, the Jesus film, and Christian radio.