Take Your Toys and Go Home

An insider at the toy maker Hasbro has been suspended after reportedly blowing the whistle on the company’s critical race theory (CRT) training.

David Johnson, a packaging engineer working for Hasbro contractor Harvey Nash, has been suspended from his work after making public the company’s efforts to indoctrinate young children.

Johnson sat down with Project Veritas, a non-profit journalism enterprise focused on undercover reporting work and investigating and exposing corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud and other misconduct in both public and private institutions to achieve a more ethical and transparent society.

Johnson told Project Veritas founder and CEO James O’Keefe leaked Hasbro’s CRT training systems, in which he was reportedly forced to participate in as part of his role at Harvey Nash. Johnson leaked a video to Veritas showing “Conscious Kids” co-founders Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens lecturing Hasbro employees about infants’ inherent racism.

“I decided to come to Project Veritas because I oppose the indoctrination of children that they (Hasbro) wanted to push, and I felt that more people needed to know about it,” Johnson told James O’Keefe.

“They want to introduce children into racial bias at an early age before they’re really able to understand what race and racism is,” he said.

Katie Ishizuka, one of the “Conscious Kids” co-founders that trained Hasbro employees, was recorded explaining how young children are prone to racist behavior.

“By three to six months, babies are beginning to notice and already express preference by race,” Project Veritas states that she said.

“[Babies] as young as two are already using race to reason about people’s behaviors. We may see this play out in daycare or on the playground — and how kids are starting to choose or exclude playmates and friends.”

“It’s absurd to just state as fact that at two years old, children are going to be racist and using race to reason about who they’re going to play with,” Johnson said to O’Keefe in response to the recording.

“By age three, children are already starting to apply stereotypes, and research shows that they also may use racist language intentionally at this age,” Ishizuka continued. “White children at this age may report explicit or overt negative attitudes towards people of color…By age four, kids are showing a strong and consistent pro-white anti-black bias.

“At the age of five, children show many of the same racial attitudes held by adults — children are really sensitive to the status of different racial groups in our society and show a high-status bias towards white people, which is the socially privileged group in our society. White children show pro-white bias at this age.”

According to CBN News, a statement emailed to Faithwire on Wednesday evening by Hasbro said the report by Project Veritas “mischaracterizes” the company “and our values.”

“Our mission is to create the world’s best play and entertainment experiences that connect children, fans, and families around the world,” the spokesperson said. “We occasionally invite third-party speakers for optional sessions to discuss viewpoints.”

The statement further indicated the session in which Johnson participated “was not mandatory training” but was instead “an optional webinar attended by a small group of employees.”

“As always, the views expressed by external speakers are their own and do not reflect the views of the company.”

M. Browning

A Monday Morning Prayer

Psalm 23:4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4)

Lord God, fear threatens to overtake us, to hinder us from trusting You. We often seek to rely on ourselves, trusting in our own strength to accomplish our own desires. Because we recognize the realities and the dangers of this distressed world, we thank You for making Your plan clear to ultimately remove all fear and anxiety and worry. Thank You for communicating the truth about fear in terms we can grasp. Thank You for challenging us to trust You as You unfold Your plan in the teaching of Scripture. Give us a commitment to Your truth, so that we live differently and think differently. Help us to be passionate about what matters so that we care more about the eternal and less about the temporal.

Shake us awake, our Father, with the reality that the world is heading in the wrong direction. Remind us that we have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people, despite the lawless times . . . if we would but trust You. Deliver us from fear that holds us back, that we might magnify the name of Jesus Christ, regardless of our work, our calling, and our involvements. For Jesus’s sake we pray. Amen.

Christians and the Olympics

“I believe God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast,” Eric Liddell wrote in a letter to his sister Jenny before competing as a sprinter for Great Britain in the 1924 Summer Olympics.

The 1981 film Chariots of Fire (for my money, the best sports movie ever made) follows the lives of the devoutly Christian Liddell and his Jewish teammate Harold Abrahams at the Paris Games, and actor Ian Charleson, playing Liddell, intones these lines over the film’s sublime final race scene.

Liddell wins the gold medal in the 400 meters, a race that the 100-meter specialist had never run at an international competition. The son of Scottish missionaries, Liddell refused to compete in the 100 meters, which was won by his friend Abrahams, because the opening heats had been scheduled for a Sunday.

Liddell’s decision to remember the Sabbath and forgo the 100-meter competition transformed this national hero into a role model for Christians around the world. This man of remarkable talents was willing to pass up his best shot at athletic glory for the opportunity to properly honor his Lord and Savior.

Certainly, many Christians had competed in the previous modern Olympiads, but none took such a public or principled stand for his faith. Following his Olympic triumph, Liddell returned to China, where he had been born during his parents’ mission in the country. He spent much of the rest of his life in China, serving the poor and teaching the gospel.

During World War II—the last time the Olympics were called off—Liddell was taken prisoner by Japanese forces and devoted the last two years of his life to ministering to his fellow inmates at the Weixian Internment Camp in Shandong Province. He died just a few months short of the camp’s liberation by American forces.

Liddell continues to be remembered by Christians as a modern-day martyr. And nearly a century after he won the gold, his witness has empowered subsequent generations of faithful Olympians to speak out about a purpose beyond the podium.

As millions of fans around the world tune in to the Tokyo Olympics, they aren’t just watching for record breakers and feats of strength. They want to hear stories with echoes of Liddell, people whose faith makes them bolder competitors, caring teammates, and humble victors.

Competing on the highest levels of a sport and on an international stage takes almost supernatural dedication. Christian faith can be a source of hope and inspiration for athletes who feel like the odds are against them.

In my own childhood, I found the story of Dan Jansen, who spoke frequently and openly of his faith, particularly striking. In 1988, the World Champion speed skater learned the morning before competing for Team USA at the winter games in Calgary that his sister had died of leukemia. Jansen, a favorite in both the 500-meter and 1000-meter sprints, fell in both races. Four years later, he again failed to medal despite his world-class status. Finally at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics, Jansen persevered and won a gold medal in the 1000 meters.

Our draw to Christians in sports is not specific to Olympic athletes, as the mass appeal of figures such as David Robinson, Tim Tebow, and George Foreman has demonstrated over the years. But Olympians find themselves on a unique stage—representing their country before the rest of the world. As outspoken Christians, they, too, become global representatives of the faith.

Today’s Olympic lineup contains Christian athletes whose faith shapes how they compete and how they live their lives outside the games.

American sprinter Allyson Felix, a six-time gold medalist and three-time silver medalist, says her Christian faith inspires her to put on sports clinics for children in the US and abroad, working as a State Department envoy. Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, a six-time medalist who will be competing in her fourth Olympics in the 100 and 200 meters, has used sports as a ministry and developed a large social media following based on both her prowess on the track and her consistently positive, gospel-informed message.

Why do Christian athletes, both past and present, serve as such a source of inspiration for faithful fans? I spoke with a friend of mine the other day about this very question. He responded with a story from his youth about athletes not on the international stage but on a decidedly local one. He remembered the time a dozen or so players from the local college football team visited with his church’s youth group right after a game.

None of these players made it to the National Football League, but that made them no less inspiring to the youth to whom they witnessed. The standout of the evening was the team’s star running back.

“I had watched him explode through holes, shed tacklers, and rush for long touchdowns on several Saturday afternoons,” my friend said. “His reputation made me excited to hear him talk, but what struck me was his size and strength and his utter kindness and humility. He had the largest smile and conveyed genuine concern and goodwill for each person in the audience. I don’t remember a word he said, but I remember his presence—strong, kind, compassionate, and winsome. Utterly Christlike.”

This juxtaposition is part of why we find Christian athletes so compelling. We see the fire and fury they display in competition set against their ability to be good sports between the lines and exemplars of the Christian life outside the lines. It’s a version of being in the world but not of it. They demonstrate the control and confidence necessary to compete as athletes while displaying the magnanimity of true disciples.

C. Trutor

Living In the End Times

With so many perplexing current events in the nation and around the world in the last few years, some could think the end times is near. In a 2020 study by Lifeway Research, a majority of pastors agreed that certain current events were signs of Jesus’s return.

Around 8 in 10 pointed to a rise of false prophets and teachings (83%), many believers growing cold (81%), traditional morals becoming less accepted (79%), and wars and national conflicts (78%). Majorities of pastors also point to earthquakes and other natural disasters (76%), people abandoning their Christian faith (75%), famines (70%), and anti-Semitism toward Jewish people worldwide (63%) as signs of the end times.

So, are we living in the end times? Yes and no.

Yes, because we have always been living in the end times since Jesus’s ascension, waiting for Christ’s return, with signs of false prophets and famine in every age of history. And no, in the sense that this age is no different than any other age. The signs that Jesus mentions occurring in the end times has occurred in every epoch, revealing to us that we should always be ready and always be alert. This age is not any more the end times than the previous age.

The study also showed 56% of pastors expecting Jesus to return in their lifetime. Some may expect Jesus to return in their lifetime because they know they should always be ready for Him to return. And some may expect Jesus to return in their lifetime because they believe the signs of current events point to their specific lifetime. My hope is that more pastors are the former, not the latter, as no one knows the day or hour.

With differing beliefs on the specific time and day and the interpretation of biblical passages and imagery, there is one thing on which we can all agree: we should have an urgency to be ready and alert for when that day comes. But what does that mean or look like? If we could know that Jesus was coming back tomorrow, what kind of church should we be? Think about these four ways of living.

Be Less Anxious

We are an anxious society and the church is no different. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., with 40 million adults affected. Our anxiety arises because of true and fake news, social media feeds, criticism from those around us, self-deprecating thoughts and beliefs, our own expectations of what life and ministry is supposed to be, our own fear of the end times, or simply us trying to hold on to this life as tightly as possible. Our desire for control leaves us disturbed, worried, and perplexed when we realize there are things simply out of our control.

But the opposite should be true of us as believers waiting on the Lord’s return. As we know He will come to complete His kingdom on earth and in heaven, what are we to be anxious about? When we realize and remember that Christ is on His throne in this life and the next, why are we worrying? We should be the least anxious people on the planet. A. W. Tozer said, “God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which He must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves.” Though we wait, it is with anticipation, not with anxiousness. Being ready and alert means we shed ourselves of the worries that easily entangle us.

Be Less Divided

As a guest at a wedding, I eagerly anticipate the time when the bride comes through the doors. The whole assembly rises up in unison and all eyes are on her. Everyone’s anticipation of the arrival of the bride causes us to know when to all stand and keep our focus on her. Understanding we are in the end times, awaiting the arrival of Christ should cause us to be in unison as the church in the same way. God desires unified focus from His people as we work and we wait — together.

It’s not a competition. It’s not about us versus them, whoever that ‘them’ might be. We don’t go to a wedding and compare our outfits or the weight of our wallets. We don’t fight and quibble and slander each other. We’re too busy waiting for the bride and groom, anticipating the celebration, anticipating the feast. Living in the end times means we understand the importance of unity, of teamwork, of focus on God’s mission, not our own. If Jesus was to come back tomorrow, He will be waiting for us to all stand together, keeping our eyes on Him.

Be More Joyous

In Matthew 25, the parable of the ten virgins or bridesmaids describes the groom as being delayed, so five foolish ones fall asleep and are unprepared for his arrival. Imagine being a groomsman or bridesmaid and falling asleep at the ceremony as you wait for the bride and groom. How is that possible? Given a specific role to play, who dozes off in anticipation? The opposite is normally true. The bridal party is usually doing various tasks, preparing for the grand event, working hard. They’re usually excited and exuberant, filled with happiness and joy for their friend or family member getting married.

How do we see our roles as part of Christ’s bridal party? Are we doing everything needed for His arrival? — Y Bonesteele Click To Tweet

How do we see our roles as part of Christ’s bridal party? Are we doing everything needed for His arrival? Are we excited, anticipatory, and elated at what’s to come? Does ministry, vocational or not, seem like drudgery or delight? Does working and waiting seem purposeless or have its intended focus of serving the bride or groom? Like those at a wedding, we wait with joy for Jesus’s return, even in the darkness of night, even not knowing the time or hour. Because we know it to be a momentous and joyous event, we can’t help but be ready and alert with rejoicing.

Be More Evangelistic

Continuing the wedding metaphor, a proposal and wedding are times when people increase their social media usage to spread the news. Six in 10 brides reported using social media to announce their engagement within the first 24 hours and a total of 86% shared their news within the first week.

Can you imagine what would happen if 86% of believers share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ on social media and elsewhere? Good news is meant to be shared; yet when it comes to the gospel, we really don’t feel like doing it. In a 2019 Lifeway Research study, less than half of churchgoers say they have shared with someone in the past six months how to become a Christian (45%). Only around 1 in 10 churchgoers average at least one evangelistic conversation a month. If we truly believe Jesus could come back tomorrow, why the lack of urgency? Why the hesitation on evangelism?

Though many may say they believe Jesus’s return is imminent, many may not be living with that urgency in mind. We need a fresh reminder of eschatology, not so we can theorize on a time or date, but to prepare our minds to be ready and alert, sharing to all the joy that comes with following Christ.

Y. Bonesteele

One View of the Cuban Crisis

As the Cuban crisis unfolds, we are seeing an unprecedented number of protesters. Some of these dissidents could lose their lives for their bravery.

A friend of mine from church is from Cuba. Carlos was a political prisoner for 18 months in his home country. His crime? Trying to escape Cuba. Eventually he did get to escape.

I asked him about today’s protests. He said, “62 years later—this is the first time the people arose. It’s not over. At least they’re not afraid to protest any more. At this point they have nothing to lose.” One would add—except for their lives.

He said that the word from inside Cuba is that many protesters have been killed “left and right.”

Some of those Cuban protesters have even carried American flags—as a symbol of freedom. Protesters against Communism in Hong Kong a year or two ago also waved American flags. Ironically, many American leftists protest the flag. But in the face of Communist oppression, these dissidents see the American flag in a positive light.

There are some American apologists for the Cuban Communists. New York Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) sent out a tweet (7/15/21) claiming to sympathize with the Cuban protesters. But she blames the U.S. embargo against Cuba for their situation, while never condemning communism—the fountainhead of all the Cubans’ miseries.

I asked Carlos what he thought about such statements. He said, “It’s hard to listen to these people. They have no clue. They never lived it.”

I asked him about Cuba’s alleged progress for its citizens, like its much-touted health care system. He said, “Everything they hear is from the government press. There’s no free press in Cuba.”

Responding to AOC’s tweet, one commentator noted that most Cubans live on $44 (U.S.) per month. In contrast, when Fidel Castro died in 2016, his net worth was estimated at $900,000,000.

Black Lives Matters (BLM) also spoke out about the Cuban crisis—and blamed the U.S. embargo against Cuba, not the Communism that enslaves the Cubans. BLM had previously tweeted “Rest in Power #FidelCastro” after the brutal dictator’s death in 2016.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, whose own family fled Castro’s Cuba, tweeted the other day, “My office stands ready to help the leaders of the Black Lives Matter organization emigrate to #Cuba.”

The founder of the misguided 1619 Project actually claimed that Communist Cuba has solved racism in the island state and was a model to the rest of the Americas.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, architect of the 1619 Project, said, “If you want to see…the most equal multi-racial country in our hemisphere, it would be Cuba.”

Outspoken socialist Senator Sanders defended Communist Cuba on “60 Minutes” last year: “It’s unfair to simply say everything is bad…When Fidel Castro came to office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”

Perhaps the biggest argument against the apologists for the Communists are the Cuban dissidents themselves. Through the years many of them have paid a high price to try and fulfill their God-given desire to be free.

I live in South Florida, and one time I came across an unbelievable sight at the beach. This was in August 1994 when many desperate refugees were trying to flee from Cuba on makeshift rafts.

I stumbled across one of these ramshackle contraptions off the shores of Deerfield Beach (north of Ft. Lauderdale). It is about 300 miles or so away from Cuba. This raft reflected the anguish that its makers must have felt.

It was composed primarily of three wooden doors. There was some sort of Styrofoam-like substance at the bottom to keep it afloat. One of the doors was at the bottom of the structure and the other two made up the raft’s sides, with pieces of wood nailed across to serve as crossbeams. Some of the wood used included wooden shutters. It was literally as if someone had torn apart his own home (under cover of darkness) in order to put this thing together.

Then they would have had to float or row in the treacherous waters, in the grueling sun, with the potential threat of sharks along the way, to try and get here into America. Why? So that maybe—just maybe—they could get a chance to enjoy what you and I enjoy every day.

Freedom. The chance for a better life. Something entirely lacking in Cuba, despite the fawning (and vacuous) portrait of some mythical worker’s paradise painted by socialists. We should pray for the Cuban people to be free one day. Hopefully sooner than later.

Jerry Newcombe

Praying for Your Teenager’s Purity

Sexual Temptation Abounds

Evil has abounded in every age; yet today’s children face unique danger. Sex is assumed in most dating relationships. Pornography is as accessible as checking the weather. Phone apps provide opportunities for anonymous hookups.

As a parent of six children, I bear the responsibility to guard and guide them through this treacherous landscape of sexual temptation. I also know that ultimately only the Lord can provide the help they need (Ps. 127:1). This is why parents like me must pray for their teenager’s sexual purity.

What follows are six prayers from Scripture’s mine of wisdom that parents can pray for their teenagers.

1. Pray they would desire God.

Pray that God would help them treasure him above all else.

Desiring God is a gift that only he can give; plead for God to give it. We do this knowing that one of Satan’s greatest tools is distraction—which abound in our age. If we are not careful, screens, texts, games, movies, friends, and social media fill every waking moment of our children’s lives. Desire for God can quickly be quenched and replaced with lesser loves.

There is a war for our children’s affections, and we must plead with God to intervene. First, we must pray that our children come to know Jesus. Pray they would cherish his saving mercy. Secondly, pray with the Apostle Paul that our children would continue cherishing him and “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus . . . and count them as rubbish, in order that [they] may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).

Jesus assured us, “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Pray for your children to pursue purity, not as an end in itself, but as a means of seeing God. Pray also for yourself to have wisdom in helping your children discipline themselves and prioritize seeking God above all else (1 Tim. 4:7–8).

2. Pray they would understand sexuality.

Pray that God would help your child’s view of sex to be shaped by Scripture, not the world.

Several years ago my family and I walked through a carnival’s house of mirrors. The walls were lined with mirrors designed to twist our reflection and present a distorted image. Some stretched us to look tall and thin; others rendered us short and tubby. Everywhere we walked, things looked right in some ways and strange in other ways.

Our fallen world is a house of mirrors that distorts everything, including sexuality. According to the world, sex is whatever you want it to be, because, well, it’s all about you. But this perversion of God’s purpose has devastating effects. Along with that, the world assures them that their identity is wrapped up in their feelings and sexual fulfillment. This breeds confusion with disastrous consequences. Pray they would see their identity in Christ as their greatest treasure.

God wisely and wonderfully created sex, gender, and sexuality. He hardwired us with the capacity for attraction, arousal, and satisfaction. Our children need to understand that sex is not meaningless or evil but that in marriage it is a gift that he gives for our pleasure and his glory (Heb.13:4; cf. Gen.1:28, 2:24). Navigating the confusing world of sexuality can be disorienting for our children, so pray that God’s word would shape their minds (Rom. 12:1–2).

3. Pray they would honor others.

Pray that God would teach our children to honor others rather than use them.

Our sexualized culture cheapens fellow image-bearers. People are reduced to objects to be used and coveted rather than fellow image-bearers to be served and honored. Recently, I was walking with a young man who’d been battling with pornography. When we passed an attractive woman, he had a physical reaction in which he spun his head the other way and began to walk sideways with his back toward her. While I appreciated his desire not to lust, that is not the kind of response we should have to fellow image-bearers.

When sex is removed from the sacred space of marriage, it has a degrading effect on people made in God’s image. Satan calls our children to fantasize about using others for sexual pleasure, but Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, not lust after them. Young men are called to treat “younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Tim. 5:2). Young women are certainly called to treat young men as brothers, in all purity as well.

Desiring God is a gift that only he can give; plead for God to give it.

Pray for your children to see people as worthy of honor, respect, and protection. Pray they would heed God’s warnings for those who sin against one another sexually (Heb. 13:5). Pray also that they would dedicate their lives to helping others grow in holiness rather than defraud them through sexual selfishness (1 Thess. 4:1–8).

4. Pray they would cultivate sobriety.

Pray that God would help our children have spiritual sobriety about sin, grace, and eternity.

Youthfulness is often accompanied by a disastrous case of spiritual nearsightedness. Issues of eternity typically feel irrelevant. Grace can feel nebulous. Adults can more easily comprehend the way sin can devastate a marriage or a career. Our sons and daughters need God to cultivate spiritual sobriety.

Solomon warned his sons of the disaster that accompanies the way of the seductress saying “her house sinks down to death . . . none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life” (Prov. 3:18–19). Pray that God would help your teenager comprehend how sexual sin dishonors their name, brings personal pain, and steals years from their life (Prov. 5:9, 6:27–28).

As our sin becomes more pronounced to us, the grace of Jesus becomes more precious to us. Pray that God would guard our children from despair and give them hope in Jesus. Pray for them to see that where their sin abounds, God’s grace abounds all the more (Rom. 5:20). Pray that they would not be bashful before God, but bold in fleeing to his throne for grace (Heb. 4:14–16). Pray that God would give them eyes to realize that everything they think, say, and do has eternal implications (Ps. 119:18; Luke 8:10).

5. Pray they would confess quickly.

Pray that God would help them confess sins quickly and cling to Jesus desperately.

Unconfessed sin leads to shame. And shame is a powerful tool in Satan’s arsenal, especially against teenagers. Preying upon their insecurities, he tempts them to cover their compromises. He knows that unconfessed sin is like a cancer to the soul. It cripples the conscience and can send them spiraling into deeper darkness.

As parents, we desire to help them not sin, but we are also ready to help them if they do (1 John 2:1–2). We must teach our children how to confess their sins to God (1 John 1:8–9) and to other believers (James 5:16). Familiarize them with Scriptures that will help them flee to God for mercy (cf. Pss. 32, 38, 51, 103, 130; Isa. 1:18; Matt. 11:28; 1 Cor. 6:9–11; James 4:6–10; 1 Pet. 2:24–25).

Pray they would not silence the Spirit’s conviction but respond with faith and repentance (Rom. 2:4; Heb. 3:15; 2 Pet. 3:9). Pray that your children feel the weight of their sin, but also that they know the way to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:14–16). Pray they would believe that “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Prov. 28:13). Pray they would believe that God desires to forgive them.

6. Pray they would have courage.

It is difficult to follow Jesus when everyone is not. The weight of peer pressure can be daunting to young people. This is why we must pray for them to have courage to follow Jesus (Josh. 1:9; Isa. 41:10; Ps. 31:24; 2 Tim. 1:7).

The apostle Peter reminded suffering Christians that they were to forsake the sin everyone else indulges in. He also helped them fight the mockery that was sure to come from their friends: “With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Pet. 4:4–5).

Pray that our children will be strengthened to trust God, even when others laugh. Pray that the coming day of judgment will move them to resist sin so they can call their friends to find salvation in Jesus. Pray they would “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13:14).

7. Pray for Yourselves

Finally, parents, pray for yourselves. Pray these very same realities would be abundantly present in your own life. Indeed, one way God desires to protect your children is by the model and example they see in you. Treasure Christ. Honor others. Pray for your teens.

J. Garrett Kell

Being a Christian in Egypt Can Kill You

Memories of the attack have never faded from Souad Thabet’s mind.

An Egyptian Coptic Christian woman in her 70s, Souad wishes she could forget the moment that a group of Muslim men invaded her home in El-Karam village in Egypt. They dragged her out of the house and stripped her. In her ears, is the noise and giggle of the large crowd of spectators. She was mocked and beaten. Her husband was too.

That was in 2016. Recently, Souad learned that her attackers have been acquitted.

El-Karam is a village of 40,000 people, 5 per cent Coptic Christian. A rumour spread in the village that Souad’s son Ashraf was having an affair with a married Muslim woman. Both Ashraf and the woman, Nagwa, denied the allegation. Ashraf believed the rumour to have been spread by Nagwa’s husband, who used to be his business partner, but they had fallen out. Ashraf even received death threats and reported them to the police. However, authorities did nothing, and he finally fled the village with his wife and children. His parents remained behind.

One night, a mob of local Muslims armed with weapons broke into several Christian homes, including Ashraf’s. After looting the properties, they set fire to them. Ashraf’s mother was dragged outside and stripped by Nagwa’s husband, his father and brother, as she later testified.

Reconciliation without repentance

Violent mob attacks on Christians in Egypt mostly occur within mixed Muslim/Christian communities, with Christians generally the much smaller population. Radicalized Muslims, and sometimes the local Imams, promote the shunning of Christians, creating a fertile ground for aggression. Rumors of alleged blasphemy, the opening of a new church or even a small conflict over a trivial matter can trigger organized attacks on local Christians.

(Photo: Open Doors International)

Often, these attacks are followed by so-called ‘reconciliation sessions’ meant to resolve the conflict. Christians usually have no choice but to participate. Next, they are pressured, with threats and intimidation, to accept the terms imposed on them: to change their testimonies against the perpetrators or recant their complaints to the authorities. This practice perpetrates a climate of impunity where Muslims who have committed crimes against Christians are cleared of charges or not prosecuted at all.

After one such reconciliation session, the Coptic Christians of El-Karam, whose houses were burned on the night Souad was humiliated and beaten, changed their testimonies against Muslims who they had claimed were the perpetrators. They now said they had been mistaken in the identities of those people due to the dark night. This undermined Souad’s case: the three people who had attacked her and been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment were acquitted last December, as were all of the other Muslims.

“This is a great injustice,” Souad’s son, Ayad Daniel Attia, told a local expert. “We were pressured many times before to reconcile with my mother’s attackers. We refused to do so hoping that we could seek justice by law. The law, however, did not bring us justice, nor did it protect our rights.”

Hostile climate

Egyptian Christians have had to fight for their rights for several centuries now. Today, they make up 15 per cent of Egypt’s 103 million population. They are hardly newcomers to the land; the Coptic Orthodox Church names the apostle Mark as the founder of Christianity in Egypt.

After Arab armies invaded Egypt between 639-646 AD, periods of severe persecution began under Islam and the church struggled to survive. The number of Coptic Christians dwindled and by the 10th century they comprised only half of the population.

Today, oppression of Christians operates in different ways in Egypt. There is a widespread view in Egyptian society whereby Christians are regarded as second-class citizens. This view fuels their discrimination and creates an environment in which the state is reluctant to enforce the fundamental rights of Christians – despite claiming otherwise. It leaves Christians vulnerable to all kinds of attacks and pressure.

Upper Egypt, in the south of the country, is particularly dangerous for Christians. Islam has been more radicalised there than in the north. Most incidents and mob attacks take place in this region. However, Christians in the poor rural areas in the north experience a similar degree of oppression from radicalised Muslims – especially in the Nile delta villages and towns.

Due to the hostile climate especially in rural areas, neither church leaders nor ordinary Christians can protest these practices. This environment nurtures disregard for the law and contributes to a culture of impunity.

“Dirty Christian, die!”

One of the forms of impunity granted to Islamist radicals is by attributing mental illness to a perpetrator, thus clearing their criminal charges.

Sara* was walking on the street in a busy shopping area in Warraq district of Giza governorate in January last year.

Sara was attacked in the street but the perpetrator was never brought to justice(Photo: Open Doors International)

Suddenly, she felt a sharp object hitting her body. “Dirty Christian, die!” she heard a man shout while her legs started to tremble. The man had stabbed her in the neck.

“I didn’t feel pain at first,” Sara told the local expert. “I must have been in shock. I felt a lot of blood was coming out of my body and I just started dabbing it with my scarf, but it was too much.”

While Sara fainted, the attacker, dressed in the typical white clothes of Islamic extremist Salafists, continued to threaten her. While a crowd of eyewitnesses gathered around them, the man did not feel the urge to flee, seemingly confident that his actions would have no consequences for him.

Sara had large, deep cuts around her neck and her life was saved in the hospital. However, the person who committed the atrocious crime was never held to account, allegedly due to mental illness.

Under the rug

This climate of impunity is also created by the police, who often protect and cover up radical Muslims.

There have been numerous reports of murders of Christians who have been asked to renounce their faith and were instantly killed upon refusal. According to an Open Doors’ contact, although the names of the suspects are known in most cases, the police frequently display a good deal of inertia in making swift arrests and starting investigations. This sense of impunity acts as a driver of further intolerance and persecution.

Sometimes police officers are themselves the perpetrators: Open Doors recently received new reports of brutal murders of two Coptic Christians at the hands of local police.

Dr David Landrum, Director of Advocacy at Open Doors UK and Ireland, said: “Christians have lived in Egypt for nearly two thousand years. Egypt is their home. It is completely unacceptable that the law does not protect their fundamental human right to practice their faith safely.

“It is completely unacceptable that they can be persecuted with impunity. Unless this culture of injustice is addressed in Egypt, we can expect to receive more reports of oppression and violence. The Egyptian authorities need to act now.”

Egypt is number 16 on the Open Doors’ World Watch List, a ranking of 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

*name changed for security reasons.

Zara Sarvarian

The Loneliness of Being Different

Being different often breeds loneliness of the deepest kind. This is especially true when someone is different in a way that offends the sensibilities of others. For some, the difference is due to illness. Others are born with deformities or are disfigured in an accident. And for many, there will be no remedy in this lifetime. Where is God in this?

While we cannot know all his purposes in such cases, his Word reveals some of them, and through an ailing woman in Mark’s Gospel we are shown his primary purpose. The story of this woman is found in Mark 5:25–34. She had a gynecological malady, and it had plagued her for 12 long years. She’d sought all possible medical help, but to no avail. Her condition only worsened, and her suffering increased.

Worst of all, perhaps, was the social suffering. Her condition resulted in an endless flow of blood, which in those days rendered her unfit for regular fellowship. Others saw her as unclean, and she was commanded by law to apply that label to herself. Adding insult to injury, anyone who had contact with her was, according to the law, rendered unclean as well (Lev. 15:25–28; Num. 5:2).

Clearly, her condition was not conducive to a dynamic social life. In fact, it basically kept her from having a social life at all for more than a decade. No doubt that was among the worst aspects of her illness.

Blessing of Desperation

Despite her isolation, she had heard about Jesus, a man who reportedly could heal disease with merely a word and a touch. So one day she slipped into a crowd of people who were watching for him. Hopeless and out of options, she mustered up the courage to reach out and touch him as he passed by, hoping no one—least of all Jesus himself—would notice.

“If I touch even his garments, I will be made well,” she said (Mark 5:28). Sometimes, desperation is the door through which faith enters. “And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease” (v. 29).

Sometimes, desperation is the door through which faith enters.

Jesus was aware that healing power had gone out of him, so he stopped in his tracks. “Who touched my garments?” he asked (v. 30). Did he not know? Most likely he did know, but he wanted the woman to come forward. He was issuing an invitation and preparing not only the woman but also the entire crowd to learn something about faith.

Terrified to the point of falling down, she came forward nevertheless. After all, if a mere touch of his cloak had healed her, surely it was safe to approach! So she revealed herself to him and told her story.

When Jesus heard what had happened, he said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (v. 34). That’s the last we read about her, but given the Jewish customs of the day, we can safely guess that afterward she went through the required purification rituals and was then restored to full fellowship within her community.

She was healed. She was made clean. She was restored.

I believe that, you might be thinking, but it doesn’t happen that way for the majority of suffering people. So how does this show me where God is in the things that isolate me? But actually, it does happen. This is exactly what God does for all who come to him by faith: he heals, he cleanses, and he restores.

Healed, Cleansed, and Restored

Our problem isn’t God’s failure to heal—it’s our expectation of what that healing should look like. Often he does not give physical healing, although he could. But he always provides spiritual healing.

And it’s precisely at this point that we learn God’s primary purpose in allowing the woman in Mark’s Gospel to be afflicted in the first place—he wanted to heal her of sin and eternal separation from God. And God used her illness and the social isolation that came with it to bring that healing about.

The physical healing she received was temporary, for this life only, but her spiritual healing was given for eternity. The flow of blood ceased, removing the disgrace of being socially unclean, but that too was temporary, because in those days before the death and resurrection of Christ, ritual cleansing was an ongoing necessity in the lives of God’s people. That’s why the cleansing she received from Jesus points to something so much greater—the cleansing that comes by being washed in his very own blood (Titus 3:4–7).

Our problem isn’t God’s failure to heal—it’s our expectation of what that healing should look like.

We tend to miss this big picture of spiritual healing forever because we so badly want the little picture—relief from suffering right now. But what if God’s big-picture purpose will best be accomplished by not removing the hated thing that tends to isolate us from others? How we answer reveals which one we want most.

“I want both,” we say. “Why does it have to be either-or?”

That’s where we get stuck, and because we’re stuck, we focus all our energy on finding a remedy that will make us normal and lift us out of the loneliness that comes from being different. But when no remedy works, to our loneliness is added frustration and discouragement.

There is only one way out of that muck, but there is a way out, as the woman in Mark’s Gospel shows us. It’s to get near to Jesus. He is the only one who can give us what we really long for. He can certainly change our circumstances if he chooses. And he just might.

But even if he doesn’t, he won’t leave us to ourselves and all alone. He will give us himself, and if we’re willing to let him have his way with us and with our problems, we will find him to be exactly what he is—the One who fills up what is lacking. He wants us to know him this way, and sometimes leaving us where we don’t want to be is the only way we find it. As has been said so truly, sometimes we don’t know that God is all we need until God is all we have.

L. Brownback

Developing Female Leadership in the Church

My ministry journey has been unconventional. It hasn’t moved in a straight path, nor at the pace I expected. But whenever someone asks me to share how God got me to where I am today, the one answer I repeatedly give is leadership development.

Throughout my career, various leaders have helped change the trajectory of my life by simply giving me an opportunity. Recognizing my potential, they gave me opportunities to develop my leadership skills. They did so because they viewed ministry as a marathon relay race. They trained me, intending one day to pass me the baton to run the next leg of the race.

Like the leaders who shaped my life, all church leaders must be thinking about who will come behind us to continue the work of ministry. Specifically, women already in positions of influence need to have eyes to see that the next generation of women is ready to be catalyzed for the gospel! Innovative, creative, and passionate about mission, these women need us to train them to be leaders.

Whether the format is informal or formal, most successful leadership development programs have several consistent components. Over the years, I’ve learned that the following ones are key to training young leaders well. 

Vision

One topic that is commonplace among millennials and Gen Z is purpose. Like many others, they are looking for ways to make an impact in the world. However, this generation sometimes doesn’t believe there is space to do so in the church. They might think leadership is reserved for men only. Or, struggling with imposter syndrome, they may believe they aren’t good enough to serve in those roles.

As we train women to lead, we need to cast vision for them constantly. We need to show them how God has gifted them and the potential impact they can make—both inside and outside of the church. Women are essential to the mission of God. So, we need to communicate this truth repeatedly, painting a picture of the mighty ways God can use them to build His kingdom. 

Training

Biblical illiteracy is one of the major problems facing the evangelical church, which means most evangelical Christians do not know or understand the core truths of their faith. Lifeway Research found 57% of Protestant churchgoers find it challenging to make sense of the Bible when they read it on their own. What this means is that millennials and Gen Z need to be trained to think deeply about their faith. They need to learn how to live wisely and skillfully engage culture through a solid biblical worldview. While there is a vast array of content we can provide our leaders, there are three major categories our training should focus on. 

Theology

To effectively navigate their faith, our women need an understanding of biblical theology, systematic theology, and spiritual formation. This allows them to comprehensively understand the story of the Bible, the beliefs that are informed by that story, and the habits/disciplines we use to live out those beliefs. Theology is not just for pastors or seminary students. It is an essential tool that equips our women to grow to maturity in Christ and lead others to do the same.

Character Development

Leadership is more about being than doing. When we have godly character, we will lead in a way that honors God and His people. Consequently, we should help our women understand who they need to be to lead well. Our training should emphasize character traits like humility, servanthood, respect, vulnerability, perseverance, and courage. As we share from Scripture and the experiences of our own lives, we enable women to see how godly character strengthens our leadership and how an absence of godly character weakens it.

Practical Leadership Skills

While leadership is more about being than doing, the doing still matters. Thus, our training programs should provide practical guidance for specific leadership skills. Conflict resolution, ministry development, teaching, and volunteer care are just a few of the skill sets that should be addressed. These conversations should also include guidance on how to serve alongside men, build confidence, and battle self-esteem issues.

There are unique obstacles for women in ministry, and we need to prepare women to overcome them. We also have to remember, however, that everyone has a different personality and set of giftings. Therefore, we should highlight how God has uniquely wired them to lead and resist conforming them to a specific leadership style.

Mentorship

Even though vision and training are essential for millennials and Gen Z, the secret sauce of any leadership development program is mentoring. It is hard to grow in a skill set when you don’t have guidance from a more experienced person. Mentoring provides our women with support as they implement what they’ve learned and the feedback they need to improve.

In addition, mentoring helps address two things many of our women struggle with—entitlement and a lack of commitment. Because of our immediate gratification and social media highlight-reel culture, this generation has been trained to believe they can have whatever they want, whenever they want it. These dynamics have also made some impatient, unable to commit long-term to relationships or responsibilities. By doing life with someone more mature than them, our women are able to see the value of faithfulness, patience, and wisdom. They also get a front-row seat to what it looks like to live well as a woman leader in any season of life. 

Opportunities to Lead

You can read all the books and attend all the classes you want, but you don’t really learn how to lead until you start leading. For this reason, our leadership development programs should provide real-life opportunities for women to practice what they are learning. Over the years, I’ve learned to start people with a small amount of responsibility and then expand it over time. I have also learned that sometimes I need to add a role to a team to make room for them. Whether it’s social media or missions, their giftings can help take the team to another level!

As you think about passing the baton of ministry, I hope you will develop the next generation for women to lead well. Through casting vision, training, mentorship, and providing leadership opportunities, I hope you inspire them to live out God’s calling on their life.

Are You Broken Yet?

On the 11th of November 1793, a Danish cargo ship, the Kron Princessa Maria docked in Calcutta. Amongst its passengers was a 32-year-old cobbler-cum-Baptist pastor from the East Midlands by the name of William Carey. Few could have foreseen the immense contribution this man would make to the spiritual life of the land he would come to call home, primarily, but by no means exclusively, through providing its people with God’s Word in their own tongues.

Making disciples of all nations

From childhood, Carey had displayed a keen interest in life overseas, and following his conversion in 1779, God placed an intense concern in his heart for the souls of those living in foreign lands. He was instrumental in the formation in 1792 of what would subsequently be known as the Baptist Missionary Society, and for this reason alone he has long been regarded as ‘the father of modern missions’.

At first, he had no intention of going on the mission field himself, believing that he was called to oversee the work of the society from home whilst continuing in his role as pastor of Harvey Lane Baptist Church in Leicester. However, a friend told him that India was a veritable goldmine for the gospel, if only someone would be willing to work it for Christ. Carey, an exceptionally gifted linguist, found the lure of such spiritual riches too great to resist, so together with his wife, her sister and their four sons, he left England in June 1793, never to return.

‘Very distressing disappointments’

William Carey arrived in India brimming with enthusiasm for the task set before him, but was almost immediately confronted with a bewildering array of obstacles, threatening to derail the venture and demoralize him. Funds were limited, and the financial difficulties he faced compelled him to tent-make which meant he had far less time than he had hoped to devote himself to preaching, teaching, language-learning and translating. His wife, Dorothy, was miserable in her new environment, and her homesickness, coupled with the tragic death of their five-year-old son Peter from fever, triggered in her a mental breakdown from which she never recovered.

To make matters worse, the British East India Company, which controlled Calcutta, resented the ‘intrusion’ of missionaries into its territory and actively sought to hinder Carey’s endeavours. For a man who harboured such a burning desire for the salvation of ‘pagans’, it must have been a devastating blow for him to have to report that after almost seven years in India he knew of no native who had turned to Christ.

Thankfully, things improved significantly with the arrival of eight new missionaries in late 1799; chief amongst them Joshua Marshman and William Ward from England. They settled in Serampore, fourteen miles inland from Calcutta, which was under Danish control since the Danes actively supported Christian missions in their territories. Carey decided to join them there at the beginning of 1800, and he, Marshman and Ward proved to be a formidable team in the cause of the gospel.

With their help, Carey was able to translate the whole Bible into six languages and the New Testament into a further twenty-three. By 1804, forty natives had been baptized, and in 1806 he was appointed Professor of Bengali and Sanskrit at Fort William College, Calcutta, which gave him a comfortable income to invest in the work. However, in 1812, disaster struck. Carey’s printing house in Serampore caught fire, and the printing presses, paper and all of his unfinished manuscripts were destroyed. He exclaimed, ‘In one night the labors of years are consumed.’

Running with perseverance

In his book, Christian Missionaries, Owen Milton says of Carey’s life in India, ‘Everything was a constant struggle … gains were hard won, and maintained by even greater endeavour.’ Paul Pease writes in Travel with William Carey, ‘Any lesser man would have given up and gone home.’ Yet Carey remained in India until his death in 1834, and the benefits of his legacy are still being reaped today. How was he able to manifest such remarkable resilience in the face of such unrelenting adversity?

His sister said that he was by nature a doggedly determined man, who wouldn’t rest until he’d finished what he’d started, but natural stamina alone cannot adequately explain the astonishing ability he possessed to continue his work in India when everything seemed against him. Carey revealed his ‘secret’ in the following words:

When I first left England, my hope of the conversion of the heathen was very strong, but, among so many obstacles, it would entirely die away, unless upheld of God.

His resilience was not man made, but divinely bestowed.

God used two means to feed the supernatural ability to persevere which he planted in Carey’s soul: the first being experience. The journey from England to India had been arduous; they were buffeted by one storm after another, and their arrival was much delayed as a result. Carey wrote:

I hope I have learned the necessity of bearing up in the things of God against wind and tide, when there is occasion, as we have done in our voyage.

The second means God used to feed Carey’s resilience is the doctrine of his sovereignty so clearly set forth in Scripture. The knowledge that God is in control of all things proved Carey’s greatest incentive to persevere; it convinced him that the obstacles he faced wouldn’t destroy his work. He wrote:

The work to which God sets his hands will infallibly prosper … my faith, fixed on that sure word, would rise above all obstacles and overcome every trial.

It also assured him that God would use the setbacks which seemed to threaten the work to advance it, and to sanctify him. The destruction of the printing house actually won Carey and his team a place in the hearts of many locals, and Carey confessed, ‘The Lord has laid me low, that I might look more simply to him.’

Take heart!

Carey was not left unaffected by the trials and tribulations he encountered in India – he admitted that ‘my … troubles are sometimes too heavy for me,’ – but his pain and discomfort did not overwhelm him because he clung to the truth of God’s sovereignty. He said, ‘I am distressed, yet supported.’

We too can expect to contend with many obstacles and troubles which make their mark as we seek to make Christ known each day, but as we look to God and meditate on his sovereignty, we can be, like Carey, ‘hard-pressed … yet not crushed … perplexed but not in despair … struck down, but not destroyed’ (2 Cor. 4:8-9).

A. Brake

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