The following is a report of the Prayer and Evangelism Seminar held on the Back Sea in Russia this past May.
"I grew up as a scientific atheist, " Marina began her testimony. "As an Aedyg living in the USSR Marina passed all her exams which included questions about the atheistic philosophy of communism. "But in my heart," she explained, "I always believed there should be a creator of the universe.
The minority Aedyg territory in the Caucuses (the northern side of the Black Sea) has been Muslim for centuries. So when "perestroika" (freedom in Russia) came in 1985, Marina, now married to a nominal Christian, took advantage of the religious freedom.
"I tried to know God," she says," but when she asked if she could attend prayers at the village mosque, she was refused. She was told it was for men only.
"What do I do if I want to become a believer?" she asked. All she was told was "Obey your husband." She could believe that would bring her closer to God.
One day when she had gone to the city of Krasnodar she saw a book display of Christian books and she began her search for Truth by reading Christian literature. Then she met a Russian believer who invited her to a Baptist church where she became a Christian.
Marina and her husband, now also a committed follower of Christ, are working as missionaries to the Aedyg people. She believes there are only 15-20 Christians among them.
Marina's testimony was just one of many exciting stories shared at the Black Sea Prayer and Evangelism seminar in the Krasnodar area in Russia this past May. The conference site had once been a vacation resort for Stalin's party leaders. He had constructed magnificent buildings in the lush hills along the Black Sea with gazebos and garden walkways where the elite could enjoy peace and beauty. As 180 women sang and praised God in the once opulent conference hall, we couldn't help thanking Him for the new freedom the Russian people now enjoy.
Fourteen national and ethnic groups shared in the conference including a delegation of 44 women from Turkey. Smaller representations of unreached peoples such as Tartars, Azerbaijanis, Dagestans, Armenians and Kurds told stories of how God met their inner hunger through dreams and miraculous contacts with a believer.
Everything was translated in Turkish and Russia, and women found ways to communicate across the language barriers. Iqbal Massey, Olga Spachil and Lorry Lutz organized the seminar which focused on helping women to pray biblically for those around them who don't know Christ. The women learned more about finding their spiritual gifts and their value as women created in the image of God.
For many it was the first time they had met Christians from other countries. The Turks were surprised to find the Russian believers so warm and mature. Armenians confessed their hatred for Turks because of massacres earlier this century. Russians expressed they had never met Turks and had no idea of the vibrancy of their faith. Some even joined the Turks as they danced in praise during the worship.
The realization that all peoples in this region have suffered and are suffering for their faith was a common bond. Lorisa, a Russian woman told of how her father, a pastor was beaten and imprisoned many times by the communists. One morning the police came to their home to tell him that they had been waiting to beat him up on his way home from work the night before. But they couldn't do so because there was a man in white walking with him.
In just four years, since freedom, her father's church has grown to 1500 members. In fact, it was the women of that church who cooked for the conference and gave of themselves so lovingly.
Lorisa then spoke to the Turks saying, "We know what you are going through. In the last year our church has held several conferences here. Each time we have gone down to the edge of the Sea and stretched out our hands to pray towards Turkey. And now we are beginning to see the answers to our prayers."
By the end of the seminar, each group had made plans to share the teaching with their women back home. The Russian women from Krasnodar represented seven churches, including the Russian Orthodox and will meet together in a citywide gathering. The Turks will have meetings for women in their cities. Iqbal Massey and her husband went on to Almaty in Kazaksthan right from the conference to train women.
One young Kazak woman asked for prayer because women are not allowed to speak in her church. "How can I tell them what I've learned without doing that," she asked.
Concern for nearby Chechnya, where war has brought terrible suffering, was expressed often. Each Turkish woman brought an item of used clothing which will be taken to the refugee camps by a relief worker attending the seminar. A generous offering was also given to help a tiny group of believers in Grozny pastored by a Chechen woman.
When it seemed God had showered more blessings on us than we could handle, He added one more the last evening during the candlelight service. Several local Russian pastors had joined us and one was asked to close the conference in prayer. Instead he began giving an explanation of the gospel which seemed redundant at first. But when he gave the invitation to come forward, nine Bulgarian men stepped forward. These workers were living on the grounds renovating the building, and had come to the last meeting. We learned later that several Russian women had been witnessing to them.
The work of reaching out to those without Christ had already begun!
The Study Guide for Evangelism Praying has been printed in Turkish. Besides the sixty million Muslim Turks in Turkey, there are over six million Turkish speaking people in Europe and Central Asia.
Pray that we will find believers to distribute and teach the Study Guide among Turkish speaking people in many countries of the world, and that women will form triplet prayer groups everywhere.
Women attended the Black Sea conference from more than a dozen ethnic groups living in the Caucasus. There are almost no indigenous churches and very small numbers of believers among these people who come from Muslim backgrounds but have lived under Communism for 70 years. The women learned much about prayer and evangelism at the conference and committed themselves to sharing what they learned with their own people.
Pray that they will not lose the fire God has stirred in their hearts for prayer and evangelism. Pray that women everywhere will stir up their courage and love to talk about Jesus to the people around them who have never heard.
Thousands of refugees, mostly women and children, have fled war-torn Chenchnya. Conditions in the refugee camps are deplorable. Many live in deserted schoolhouses with no running water or sanitation. Fifty to one hundred people crowd into one room where there is no privacy and much noise. Others have turned water cisterns on their sides for shelter for their families.
Pray for an end to the war in Chechnya. Russian believers are able to visit these refugee camps and there is a small church in the capital city of Grozny. Pray that as Christians try to help with food and clothing, they will also be able to share the love of Christ.
Women in 13 West African countries have been challenged to pray and evangelize neighboring tribes and villages when Violet Mtegha visited them earlier this year. These women represent different church and denominations and they have agreed to work together to send teams into these unreached areas to find ways to present the gospel.
Pray for persistence in making plans; pray for approval from husbands and churches for them to make these journeys; pray for an open door into the hearts of people who have never heard the gospel.
The AD2000 Women's Track national coordinator in Belgium has requested special prayer for her nation. She writes: "Our land is very small, less than ten million people, divided into three languages. Our evangelical churches are also very small. Recently four of our pastors have left their families and we are all stunned. Many are under a cloud and it is especially hard for the young people.
It is unthinkable for many evangelicals to work together in any way with different denominations. A prayer meeting for pastors in Brussels has started and about 25 men attended. It was organized by a a charismatic minister so few non-charasmatic church leaders come."
The coordinator is planning to hold a prayer day for women from different denominations this fall and is concerned that women will be able to attend. Pray for unity and harmony and an ability to work together across denominations.
In March 1000 women in Angola's capitolof Luanda held a citywide meeting representing eight denominations. Their theme was Christian Women Promoting Unity. Out of this gathering the women appointed one representative from each denomination to make future plans to work and pray together with a focus on evangelism .
After thirty one years of continuous war, the country is going through a time of healing and rebuilding. Churches have grown rapidly during this time of suffering, but now there is a great need for trained leadership, and forgiveness for those who collaboratedto persecuted Christians. Women will play a key role in this healing.
Inspired by the gathering of 75,000 young people dedicating themselves to missions at GCOWE95 in Korea last May, Ana Maria da Silva returned to her own country to mobilize Brazilian women to pray. Out of this has grown "Wake Up Deborah" which is calling 25,000 women to commit themselves in writing to pray daily for fifteen minutes. The women will pray that their children and children's friends will be released from everything that would keep them from serving God.
As part of this vision they are planning on raising up 50,000 young people who will meet in different places in January 1997 on the same day and time throughout Brazil to give their lives to world mission. By March 1996, when 500 women gathered at a conference for "Wake up Deborah"'leaders, 10,000 women had already signed the commitment.
AD2000 & Beyond international director, Luis Bush, who spoke at the March conference says, "I fully expect the vision in Brazil will go forth into all of Latin America."
Following the Black Sea conference in May, women leaders in Russia and Turkey have decided to publish the Women of Vision 2000 newsletter in Russian and Turkish. This brings the number of translated editions to four, including Spanish and French. If you would like to know how to receive the newsletter in another language or publish it in your own country, please contact the AD2000 Women's Track international office.
After studying the Russian Study Guide for Evangelism Praying these Moscow women form a triplet to pray for unsaved friends and relatives and an unreached people group.
Craig Keener (Adapted from Priscilla Papers, Winter, 1996. Used by permission.)
The current teaching about a husband being his wife's "covering" is so popular that some people are surprised to find that it is actually based on a shaky inference from 1 Corinthians 1:2-16, a passage which is talking about a woman literally covering her hair during Christian worship. I want to confine myself to asking why head coverings were so important for Paul.
People covered their heads for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the reason was mourning, though this practice applied to men as well as women. Likewise, men as well as women covered their heads due to shame. Roman women normally covered their heads for worship and Greek women uncovered their heads, which might be significant in a city like Corinth which mixed Roman and Greek culture -- except for the fact that Roman men also covered and Greek men also uncovered their heads for worship. However, in 1 Corinthians Paul addresses a custom that differentiates men from women.
Jewish teachers in Palestine considered it specifically shameful for married women to uncover their heads and this practice seems to have obtained in immigrant Jewish communities eleswhere as well. The farther East one went, the more pervasive grew the custom of veiling. In the East married women dared not go in public unveiled, nor prostitutes veil themselves as if married, as early as thirteen centuries before Paul.
Traditional Mediterranean custom preferred a woman who was not only a virgin physically, but who had never even been seen by another man. In some parts of the Empire men felt that women were best kept in seclusion as much as possible. This was to keep other men from looking at one's present or future wife. Married women were normally so well covered that men could get "turned on" over bare arms, excusing themselves, of course, as weakened beyond control by the woman's seduction. But the supreme object of male desire was the woman's hair. This was why many peoples required married women to cover their hair, but allowed unmarried girls to go uncovered. In such a society a married woman who went out with head uncovered was considered adulterous, seeking lovers, and was to be divorced without any payment whatsoever.
Traditional Islamic societies in the Middle East today also mandate women's relative seculsion and the use of scarfs as a sign of seclusion when in public and the purpose for such seclusion fits exactly the primary purpose for women's public headcoverings in the ancient Eastern Meditarranean: the guarding of women's chastity. In some locations a girls' luxuriant hair, symbolic of the entanglements by which men are ensnared, must be controlled. Around the age of menarche when sexuality ripens, it must be enclosed. The headscarf, which a girl dons at this time, covers and bind her hair and symbolically binds her sexually."
In others, the woman dons the headcovering when she is married. In any case, the woman in or past puberty whose head is uncovered is thought to invite men's sexual advances, so that if a man allows his wife to go uncovered he intends to share her sexually with others.
In Paul's time, ancient Corinth was a Roman colony in Greece, a colony where upper-class women changed their hairstyles regularly (whenever the Empress set a new fashion) and so went about with heads uncovered to show off their hair. For lower-class women from the Eastern Mediterranean, however, the ostentation of these upper-class women signified seductiveness. This was a situation Paul needed to address.
Paul gave a variety of arguments on why women should cover their heads, one even grounded in the "creation order." We should follow consistently here the method of interpretation we use for the rest of the Bible. If we read the rest of the Bible and say,"Whatever the writer said applied directly to all times, without taking in account cultural context," we must require all women to cover their heads in public worship; otherwise men will not be able to control themselves. This is the conclusion of the proof-texting approach, and the issue of women's roles is only one issue among many that it affects. Conversely, if we believe that God inspired the bibilical writers to address concrete situations of their day as models for us to do the same (see 1Cor. 10: 11), we must take into account the differences between the various cultural settings they addressed and our culture today.. . .Covering heads is not the issue; the issue is that we should not cover over shallow readings of God's Word, but insist that people begin to read the Bible the way God inspired it to begin with.
This is one bibilically based view of veling. Do you have other suggestions you'd like to share? How do women in your culture handle this question? We would like to present other perspectives in future issues of the newsletter. Send your letter to the international AD2000 Women's Track office, address on back page.
(Sources for these findings, removed to save space, are available from the AD2000 Women's Track office.)
by Violet Mtegha, Regional Representative for AD2000 Women's Track
From the 24th of January to the 27th of March 1996 I visited 13 countries in West and Central Africa. The purpose of my visit was to introduce women to the Joshua Project and show how they can participate in the final global thrust to penetrate many unreached people with the gospel.
In presenting the project each national Women's Track is asked to target three unreached people groups from the list of unreached. people in their nation and send a team of women to visit those groups. In order to prepare the women for the missionary expedition, seminars were conducted in each country during my visit I taught classes on missions, discipleship, how to conduct an evangelistic Bible study and evangelism praying.
In every country women responded positively with great enthusiasm and readiness to participate in missions. The women in the villages are ready and willing and free to be used of the Lord. Women with simple faith are ready to do as directed.
I was warned not to go to Guinea Equatorial Africa as all meetings had been banned during the presidential election. I thought I would still go to meet with the committee only and not hold the seminar. Little did I know that the elections were to be in a week's time and they were not allowing foreigners in the country. When I got there the police wondered at my audacity. They wanted to throw me back on the plane, but later the chief relented stamped my passport and let me in the country.
No one was expecting me so I found my way into the town which was all upside down with election fever. All hotels were fully booked. I had a name given to me by a missionary, a retired couple whose house is ever open to strangers. They managed to squeeze me in.
I met with the GCOWE delegates and other pastors in the church-- about twenty people . We appointed a very able coordinator before I had to leave the country because the borders were being closed. The pastors plead with me to come back in May but finances do not allow me.
In Bissau I spoke to 400 plus women out in a rural area, but more kept coming in lorries even I was leaving. In Libreville, Gabon over 630 women attended. Bangui, Central African Republic was something else with official, TV crews, interviews etc. About 50 already gave their names for the Joshua project. There were about 200 who attended the seminar.
The teams will be responsible for the evangelization of the adopted people until a church is planted. However, the teams will work together in planning and preparing for the on site research and missionary expedition. That way they can share ideas and resources, pray together and encourage one another.
It's expected that by the end of the year each team would have drawn out a people profile of the adopted groups. This information then can be used in mobilizing for strategic praying before they penetrate with the gospel.
I discovered with great joy that women in Central African Republic and Congo are already engaged to some extent in reaching out to the Pygmies in their own countries. This sometimes involves them in twelve hour trips on rivers in little canoes and walking for distances to find them
The possibilities of short term missions excited the women, especially the married women originally thought that missions were not for them.
In September 1976, Cheung Kai Yum was a New Age pilgrim enroute to India to become a Hindu nun. In May 1995, Kai Yum, was a Christian missionary, telling the story of the grace of Godto 400 women at GCOWE in Seoul Korea.
I grew up in a Buddhist home. The idols we worshipped did not bring peace. Instead, we were often haunted by ghosts that frightened me till I cried.
Later, as a student in a Catholic high school, I challenged the sisters to tShow God to me,v and they could not. I decided that if God did exist at all, he must have retired after creating the world. Otherwise, why all the suffering?
In college in New York, while studying astronomy, I realized there must be a Creator and began to wonder how to communicate with Him. My instructor, an Indian lecturer, introduced me to a world-renown guru he called ta perfect god- man.v I followed the guru and learned siddha yoga. I made rapid progress and saw many visions. Finally, I saw a blue person, tthe cosmic self,v and learned that when I was united with that self, I would be a god-- a state my guru told me was nirvana. Excited, I layed aside my studies to pursue a new spiritual goal .
I began to acquire supernatural powers and a drastic change in physical appearance that startled me. At times, I was led by some dark beings to a deep, dark ditch where evil spirits gave out strange laughters and carried on impure intercourses. This frightened me, but my guru told me that when I had passed through this stage, I would attain nirvana.
Secretly, I doubted. The Creator of the universe should be a great, glorious and holy one. How could he be so dark and unclean? Still, I decided to go to India to pursue my pilgrimage, but had to return home to Hong Kong first. While there, I met a former classmate who had become a Christian. I wondered why her religion made her so happy. Earnestly she invited me to believe in Christ, but I considered her way narrow and ludicrous.
I began reading her New Testament, hoping to find inconsistencies and persuade her to accept Hinduism. As I read, though, every word of Christ had power and authority that grasped my heart. Soon I admitted that it really was God's revelation.
Now, an overwhelming force within me objected, tNo, you are going to India to gain the perfection soon. DonFt fail, when you are almost there.v
My friend and other Christians prayed that I might not be able to go to India. Amazingly, I did not get a visa and had to wait. Bored and miserable, I prayed, tLord Jesus, if you are really God, please show me.v
For three nights, I had strange visions. In each one, I found myself frightened by the dark forces I had been pursuing and crying out in the name of Jesus Christ for their destruction. In the last vision, the blue person led me into the dark ditch. I almost could not resist. I yelled, tIn the name of Jesus Christ, I cast you out!v With a bang, everything vanished. I jumped from my bed, feeling that I had been unshackled.
Based on a message delivered to the women at GCOWE 1995, by Robyn Claydon, AD2000 Women's Track Representative for South Pacific. Robyn and her husband are both involved in missions and travel all over the world with the Gospel message.
"Behold I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts." (Isaiah 8:18)
The Bible makes it clear that God needs His signs and symbols in every generation. These are signposts that point the way to Him.
Today, He is calling us to be signs and symbols in Korea, in Sydney, in Russia, in Mongolia, calling the world's lost to repentance and faith and new life in Him.
What sort of signs and symbols are we called to be?
God speaks of His people using a variety of sharp and significant word pictures. Here are a few. Meditate on them and the Scriptures. Ask God what each symbol implies about how you are to serve Him. Add more to the list as you find them while doing your own studies and readings.
God's people are sharpened arrows for battle against Satan who would hold the lost in their lostness. Read Isaiah 49:1-2
God's people are banner bearers, called to carry the standard of His name and glory into spiritual battles of all kinds. Read Isaiah 13:2
God's people are shining lights in a dark world. Read Matthew 5:14-16
God's people are watchmen on the walls, called to warn others of the judgment of God for their sin and pray and call them to repentance. Read Isaiah 62:6-7 & Ezekiel 33:6-7
God's people are shepherds, to guide and nurture one another. Read Ezekiel 34:2-10
Who are the LOST to whom we are called to point the way?
They live in the remote parts of the world, and they live right next door to us.
All who have not received God through Jesus Christ are LOST. To recognize this, is the best motivation for sharing the Good News. How, when and where can we reach the LOST?
Paul was in prison when he prayed for an open door for the message. (See Colossians 4:2-6). Where are we as we pray for an open door?
Do you ever feel imprisoned by your circumstances-- age, education, health-- and say, tGod canFt use me here!v? Of course He can! He needs His signs and symbols pointing to Himself EVERYWHERE!
A couple in the Middle East were imprisoned for holding a small house church in their home. While here, they had more opportunities to speak about Jesus than they did outside. When they were released, their guards invited them back!
We need to: