Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What Peter Says in Response to Persecution

This morning, while reading 1 Peter, I realized something about myself. Later in the day, when Barbara sent me the link to a great blog, "Far East Russia for God's Glory", I realized it anew.

I don't deal well with persecution.

What I mean is this: I care deeply about the persecuted church. I am bothered by apathy in the Body about it, and I burn with anger when I read of Christians being mutilated in Turkey, burned to death in India, or being tortured with power drills in Pakistan. I am consistently dismayed by the deliberate lack of coverage this receives in the media, which attempts to portray Christians as bigots and buffoons at every turn.

Apart from these cases of overt, barbaric, physical persecution, closer to home, the more subtle oppression of Christians in Eastern Europe is a pet peeve of mine. I have written about society and governmental perception of Bible-believing Christians in Bulgaria and the more hard-line regime against them in Belarus here before.
Widely considered cultists, loonies and heretics, the Church in Eastern Europe experiences a uniquely passive-aggressive form of persecution which is the result of smear campaigns, media propaganda and jealousy from the Eastern Orthodox Church. In the 19th century, this took the form of Orthodox-led riots, pogroms and burnings of Protestant property; nowadays registration permits are denied, rumors are spread, and the mass media are used to publicly discredit evangelicals.

This infuriates me.

But here's the interesting thing: it seems to bug the Christians caught in the fray far less than it does me.

When I was in Bulgaria again last summer, the elderly congregants at the Baptist church were the most joyful, contented individuals I noticed the entire time we were there. Half of the 2.5 million people in Sofia look angry; the other half look clinically depressed. But not the Christians. They don't seem to give a rat's patootie that they are still a maligned minority; they've got Jesus, and He's all they need to be joyful.

When I spent time interviewing my former pastor, he passionately said his years in prison were the best gift God could have given him. Most of his books center around the theme that as disciples of Christ, we must expect persecution and be ready at all times to make sacrifices for our faith. He related anecdotes of recent media attempts to cast Christians in a bad light - most of them instigated by the Orthodox Synod (itself the center of a political controversy). Despite the slander, he held not a hint of animosity.

Recently, I posted a review of an earlier Bulgarian pastor's 13-year ordeal at the hands of the Communists. When I read details of how deranged men tortured, beat and starved Christ-followers within an inch of their lives, I seethe. My anger is all the more intense knowing how this evil, godless ideology has sucked in naive people. People who are close to me, and are thoroughly brain washed. Pastor Popov prayed for and warned against hating the Communists. But you know what? I hate the Communists. HATE them. I hate extremists in India who slice open pregnant women and pour kerosene on Christians, just to watch them burn. Two years ago, when I read of the attack on the Australian missionary family whose father and sons were burned to death, I felt rage.

And then the widow forgave the killers. The Indian believers continue to praise God, knowing each service might be their last. The Belarussian Christians hold their illegal meetings surreptitiously, and the Bulgarian evangelicals doggedly continue to feed the hungry and counsel the prisoners.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

They get it. I struggle to rejoice, because according to my human logic, it's just so wrong.

Even closer to home, I do not do well with the even smaller, also annoying barbs that come from my parents for my being a Christian. Part of the reason I am so well-versed in Scripture and apologetics is to be able to give a ready response to the attacks my father makes on my faith. (Oh, he likes to be sneaky about it - I call it back-door antagonism). To be sure, as Beth Moore once wrote, "I'm not sure we can really relate to religious persecution in this country, and it's rather nauseating when we try." (That's the one and only time I'll quote Beth Moore on this blog. In this case, though, her point happened to be well-taken.)

I keep a calm demeanor and a rational tone when countering attacks, but inwardly

I want to slap the snot out of I am a bit irritated. Why don't people open their idiot eyes already and just believe on Christ? The Bible's authenticity has been proven many times over; how hard is it to get a library book on apologetics?!?

Here's Peter's advice (I dearly love the apostle Peter; especially that sword episode with Malchus' ear):

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." 15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:8-9; 14-17).

Lord, change my heart. Somewhere deep down inside, there's a quiet and gentle spirit just dying to get out.

Yeah, I just am finding the balance between righteous anger and the acceptance of suffering with joy (especially other people's suffering, when they don't deserve it) hard to find. Amazing that those in the midst of it handle it with so much more grace and acceptance than I can find possible.

Below is a September 2008 posting from the Russian Christians in Siberia:

Dear brothers and sisters! We ask you to pray for our ministry to the Far East Russia.

«With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel…" Eph. 6:18-19

1. Following a week September 18th in our city will the big Christian concert.Please pray, that the government our city to open their hearts to cooperation and to not interfere in carrying out of a concert.Also that it is a lot of people which not know the God could to come on this concert and to hear the gospel.

2. In the begun October Nika will organize regional Christian conference for women .Please pray, that the God to give her a wisdom and Holy Spirit to change a life many women through this conference.

3. In connection with event in Georgia and South Ossetia the government has changed attitudes to Christians. The main religion Russia - Orthodoxy. Many Christians Protestants cannot spend public a meeting and cannot openly preach the Gospel.Please pray, that the government has changed the attitude and has opened a door for the sermon of the Gospel.

4. Pray, that the God has given new work (jab) for Zhenya that he had more time for our ministry in Birobidzhan. Time for personal preparation a pray and reading the Bible, also for a meeting with people for the Bible studying. That the God has filled our financial need.

5. Pray for greater Christmas meeting that much our friends have come to our house and to learn about love the God who was given His son for them.

6. Pray, that the God has given us a building for church.

Your in Christ Zhenya and Nika Aksutin

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Apparently I'm not the only one....

...who thinks it was an evasive non-answer.

Last month, some controversy arose over an entry I wrote, taking issue with a leading Christian publication's portrayal of Islam, through the revisionist eyes of one of its adherents (see my original entry here). This month's edition arrived yesterday, and with a sense of great satisfaction and vindication I see that I am not the only reader who thought the interview misrepresented Islam's true agenda.

(I have to be careful about naming the publication, as they are publishing one of my articles in a few months). Many kudos to Mr. Goldberg for articulating what millions of Christians with intact critical thinking skills already know:

Islam According to the Qur'an

With chagrin I read the article "Islam According to Gallup" [November]. To say that it soft-pedals Islam is an understatement. The interviewer should have asked more probing questions or offered some refutation to what Islamic scholar Dalia Mogahed gave an ignorant public.

Mogahed glides over the question about the punishment for apostasy in Islam by saying, "Islamic law is a vibrant, ever-changing set of interpretations." Islamic law, however, is clear that the penalty for apostasy is death. The more secularized Muslim governments may impose lesser penalties, but that is because they are not following Islamic law strictly. On October 20, Afghanistan's government commuted the death sentence of a young journalist for blasphemy. The sentence was reduced from death to "only" 20 years in prison. A couple days later, a Somali man was murdered because he had converted from Islam to Christianity. Yet the article did not address occurrences like these. Why not?

Further, Mogahed says that some violent verses from the Qur'an have a "historical context and must be understood … in a specific way," implying that those verses are no longer valid. Yet the fundamental principle of Islam is that the Qur'an is the literal word of Allah, perfect, complete, immutable, and valid for all eternity. Is Mogahed prepared to openly and publicly declare that those violent verses are no longer valid?

Gallup can survey the opinions of Muslims, but it cannot determine what Islam is. There is only Islam according to the Qur'an and the sayings of Muhammad.

Carl Goldberg
Phoenix, Arizona

Here is the link to his letter (third one down). To their credit, the magazine consistently publishes opinions dissenting from what they print on many issues. This month's cover story on "Marketing Jesus" was superb.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Nouthetic Counseling and the Sufficiency of Scripture

This is Part II in a series I am writing on secular psychology vs. biblical counseling. I should make it clear that the angle I am particularly concerned with is the differences in how each side treats addictions and other deviant behavior. In my next entry, I will discuss the field of "Christian" counseling and the so-called "integrationist" approach. As always, comments and critique are welcome.

The field of nouthetic counseling, or biblical counseling as it is more commonly known, was developed by a pastor named Jay Adams. As a shepherd of the flock, Adams was dismayed by the ineffectual treatment of mental and social disorders by his contemporaries in the psych fields. In the 1960’s, when Adams wrote “Competent to Counsel”, pastors were encouraged to “defer and refer” their parishioners to psychologists for treatment rather than try to counsel them themselves. Nouthetic counseling presupposes that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God, and that as such, it contains all the wisdom and counsel individuals need to solve their problems (many times caused by their own sin or possession of a sin nature), relate to others, and learn to live abundantly. A thesis of nouthetic counseling might be 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (emphasis mine).

The term “nouthetic” comes from the Greek noun nouthesis and the corresponding verb noutheteo. The term in Greek encompasses more than our modern word “counseling”, which carries a certain set of connotations and expectations largely based on stereotypes from secular therapy. Unlike the Rogerian therapist, who is to function as a non-judgmental, emotionless “mirror” for the client, a nouthetic counselor fulfills the role of actively pointing her counselee to the specific guidelines for behavior laid out in Scripture. “Nouthetic” carries with it an expectation of confronting sin biblically (Romans 15:14), correcting, encouraging, exhorting, rebuking, training and equipping for good works. Every one of these activities is a biblical command to Christians. Far from being autonomous individuals, it was assumed and taught by Paul and other early evangelists that members of the Church would be teaching one another the truths they had learned from the Apostles, confronting sin, encouraging one another, and “spurring one another on to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Paul continually confronted and encouraged individuals with the Word of God during his ministry, as is apparent from the many personal names and details in his letters. Part of the role of a pastor is to be able to open the Scriptures in a deep and personally applicable way to individual members, but the counseling role is not limited just to pastors or full-time ministry staff, as are preaching and teaching. All Christians are called to spiritual maturity (1 Corinthinans 14:20; Ephesians 4:14), and part of that maturation process is to learn and apply God’s Word and exhort others to do the same.

A typical session with a nouthetic counselor might begin with the counselor asking the client extensive questions about her background, upbringing, faith, and relationships in order to form a frame of reference and see the counselee’s “whole picture”. This is not the same as psychoanalysis, which seeks underlying causes for deviant behavior in the “subconscious” and thus places blame outside of the individual; rather, the counselor wants to gather as much solid information on her client as possible and to avoid a tendency to jump to conclusions or make hasty decisions.

Nouthetic counseling stands on the premise that the Bible holds all we need to know about God; ourselves; the nature of sin and how inclined we all are to it; how our interpersonal relationships are affected by sin; how sin affects our relationship with God; and God’s solution for sin – found only in Jesus Christ. Because it presupposes the sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture, nouthetic counseling is only appropriate or effective if the client has been born again. If not, the starting point for the counselor is to present the Gospel and explain to the client the seriousness of sin. It is necessary (as in any evangelism encounter) for the problem of sin to be accepted as a personal, concrete dilemma separating the individual from God – not simply as an abstract concept common to all. Only when a sinner sees and comprehends the full horror of her sin can she grasp the extent of lavish grace that is extended to her through the Cross. What the Bible calls “repentance unto salvation” is the prerequisite for any deep, enduring, abiding change within the spirit – anything else is just behavior modification. Once the heart which has been previously hostile toward God has been reconciled to Him through faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification can begin.

Facing one’s own sin squarely and seeking God’s solution through His own Word is the business of nouthetic counseling. Very often, even as Christians, we seek to minimize our sin or even rationalize it. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we know we have done wrong and are ashamed; so we sew “fig leaves” to cover up our shame. For the addict, some of these “fig leaves” might be unrealistic body ideals presented by the media; perfectionist parents; a painful childhood; or intense pressure to succeed at school or in athletics. While each of these circumstances causes pain and can influence a girl or woman’s thinking, the responsibility for the sinful behavior ultimately rests on her own shoulders.

The role of a nouthetic counselor is to gently strip off the “fig leaves” and help the woman to face her own sin, which has caused her current bondage. This is what the Bible calls “rebuking”, and exposing sin must be done with an attitude of love and compassion. The motive is to correct and thus heal; never to wound or punish. The counselor knows very well she is a sinner in the same boat as the addict, but she has been taught herself the principles of “putting off” old thought patterns and behaviors and “putting on” the new self. She is now in a position to help impart that wisdom to another sister. In a counseling relationship, the counselor carries spiritual authority to which the counselee has submitted. This includes completing written homework assignments and doing independent Scripture reading, which the counselor will direct, but by no means has the counselor put herself up in a position of judgment over her charge.

Helping someone face her own sin, the very root of her current agony, is actually the most loving thing a sister in Christ can do. The longer we keep making excuses for ourselves, the longer we stay in the grips of the particular, besetting sin, and the longer we stay in pain. While change can be painful, staying in the pit is ever so much more painful. Shrinking or running from what we must see in order to change will keep us in bondage.

Exposing sin in a firm but loving way is exactly the model Jesus gave us from His own ministry. One of the first recipients of grace (and consequently one of the first missionaries of the Gospel) was the Samaritan woman at the well, who we meet in John chapter 4. Jesus did not give her a scathing, angry lecture; but rather pointedly stated the fact that she had had five husbands and was currently shacking up. He put His finger right on the “spiritual disease” – her immorality. He had already offered the solution – He was, and is, the Living Water. He did not excuse her lifestyle, conceding that since she had felt unloved as a child and had unmet needs, it was okay; but neither were His words morally neutral. They were loaded with significance.

Likewise, in chapter 8 of John’s Gospel, after forgiving the woman caught in adultery Jesus tells her “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11). He does not minimize the sin or make excuses for her then or us now. He forgives, He redeems, and He has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him (2 Peter 1:3). He expects us to accept it, let Him change our hearts, and our behavior will change as a result.

Trying to change behavior without dealing with the root (sin) is doomed to failure. Outward behavior modification does not acknowledge the Lordship of Christ – a deep heart change is not necessary. True change requires us to hate our sin passionately; not just seek to avoid the consequences of it. This approach is, in essence, still trying to be our own god – thinking that we can change ourselves apart from the Holy Spirit.

Because nouthetic counseling is based entirely on biblical principles, it is not a set of subjective theories and experimental therapies as are employed in mainstream secular psychological counseling. Nouthetic counselors are required to study the Word as well as counseling methodology, and must pass a theological exam before being certified.

Hermeneutics, the study of Bible interpretation, is a field that has a practical application in nouthetic counselors. People who are doctrinally ill-equipped may take a verse or passage out of context, and use it to justify anything. Similarly, in our humanity we possess what is called the “nouetic effect of sin”, which means we are predisposed to read our own agenda into what Scripture says. In order to resist this tendency, solid theological training is necessary in order to counsel other believers. (That is not to say a seminary degree is required to help others find biblical solutions to their problems – not at all! However, doctrinal soundness is mandatory in order to guide anyone into truth, and that is a heavy responsibility.) The counselor herself must be a woman of prayer, consistently studying the Word herself; in a church where Scripture is exegeted and the Gospel is preached without compromise; and attending the requisite training for this ministry.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Extremists Halt Church Construction

(from Gospel for Asia)

Religious extremists from a popular radical Hindu activist group have brought a church construction project to a halt. They have set up a tent outside the unfinished building to conduct rituals to their gods.

The extremists descended on the church, which is under construction in Uttar Pradesh, India, on December 17. They placed vermillion-red flags on the church building, which is a sign that it has been taken over for Hindu use. The extremists, who belong to the radical RSS movement, then proceeded to offer pujas (Hindu prayers) to their gods and goddesses.

GFA missionary Kushal Samuel heard about the incident and rushed to the church. He tried to talk to the extremists, but they had called the police, who arrested Kushal and took him to jail. While he was being held in jail, the extremists attacked the GFA district leader, Harish Kumar, who had come to the site to help Kushal. The extremists beat Harish for about 30 minutes and then took him to the police station. They made up false stories about Kushal and Harish and accused them of many crimes.

The police allowed Kushal and Harish to speak, and they explained, in detail, what the church does. After hearing their explanation, the police released Kushal and Harish. But they halted the church construction.

In the meantime, the Hindu extremists set up a small tent in front of the unfinished church building. They are sitting in the tents conducting their rituals and are pressuring believers to turn their back on Christ and return to Hinduism.

The church was complete, except for the roof, when the extremists commandeered the site. GFA's zonal leader, Lamu Tekam, has met with the police in an effort to get permission to continue the construction project.

  • Please pray for Lamu, that his talks with the police will bear fruit and that the police will allow construction to resume.

  • Pray for the extremists who desecrated the church property. Pray that they will come to know Christ.

  • Pray for Kushal as he works in that village. Ask the Lord to give him grace and wisdom in the midst of the difficult situation.

  • Pray for the believers, that God will strengthen them and that they will stand firm in their faith.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Of Orphans and Widows.....

I have just received this ministry newsletter from a friend of mine who runs a Christian orphanage aid program in Eastern Europe. "Elena" (not her real name) lives and serves in a country where Christians are currentlybeing severely persecuted. The government of her country (which I will not name, but it starts with "B", is not Bulgaria, and is located just north of Ukraine....take THAT, search engines!) is trying to stop her ministry and prevent the orphans from attending church or having anything to do with the mission.

I have removed all references to the ministry name or names of towns/villages in "Elena's" ministry report, for her own protection. Her e-mail and phone lines are being monitored, and as she alludes to in the last paragraph, they are holding on and struggling to continue to operate legally.

There are currently 36,000 orphans in the country, but international adoptions are banned. A common misconception is that these millions of orphans and abandoned children around the world are available to be adopted by loving, but childless Americans. The truth is, it is almost impossible to adopt orphans from these dilapitated institutions, even in cases where the childrens' birth parents have signed away their rights. Logically, it would seem that trying to adopt would be the best way to help one of these children who desperately needs to know love. However, the sad fact is that only a very tiny percentage of international adoptions are approved. In Eastern Europe, the process is especially mired in corruption and bureaucracy. Put it this way: if you are considering international adoption due to infertility, your odds of having a child through IVF are roughly 6 times HIGHER than they are of bringing home a child from overseas.

Nevertheless, there are other great ways to help institutionalized children in virtually every corner of the world. The most effective way of helping these kids, both materially and spiritually, is by supporting a Christian orphanage ministry that operates within the country. They are usually run by dedicated, Christ-centered volunteers who pour themselves out into teaching and discipling these kids. Since I personally know the head of the small ministry featured today (it's basically a two-woman project with an account overseen in the States), I can vouch for the honesty, hard work, dedication, and agape love that they lavish on the 6 orphanages where they minister. They bring the kids food, shampoo, clothing and soap, as well as run Bible studies, Christian camps (staffed by national volunteers, since missionaries are now banned from the country), teach them life skills and organize Christmas parties at each of the orphanages. The goal is that each orphan will receive a gift for Christmas. If you would like to help make that a reality, please leave me a comment in the combox and I will give you more information.

"Elena" is pictured on the far left in the second photograph below.

Greetings dear friends and supporters,

As we celebrated Thanksgiving we counted our blessings and thought of you as one of them. Thank you for being with us and for all your prayers. We are alive and well despite all the pressures, and we are blessed because we have Jesus.

This fall was very fruitful in friendship and things we did. First of all, the pigs made it to (town's name) orphanage barn with pig food for the year. And the orphans were blessed with potatoes, carrots and cabbage as well for the whole year. We presented orphans at (orphanage #2) with a washing machine, so now they can do laundry themselves in their group area.

Three times we did a "cutting project". A group of Christian ladies from a different town asked us to share our experience of how to start a ministry to orphans. Our staff members shared some things and we wanted to follow with practice, so we took them to the orphanages with us and since all of them are hairdressers, they did hair cuts for kids and shared about their faith too. Moreover, we found a contact person in the orphanage in their town (that's where my parents live) and made a connection for the ladies to visit the orphans there.

Also, we did a cooking class at No. 2 orphanage for one family group of kids (brothers and sisters of different ages). We like this project as it's very practical and helps orphans a lot. We had a girl Ira in our group this time, and I asked her to boil eggs for the sandwiches but she didn't know how to do it. And Ira will graduate this coming May. After our lesson, I asked her if she knew how to do it and she said "yes". And while we are eating, we like to talk about their future and help them to build self-esteem, as many of them think that they are not worthy or not able to go to college for further studies.

Twice a month or so, we sit around the table, having tea and cakes, with a group of orphans. We discuss different topics and give a Christian view on them. And in between all the visits to orphanages, we try not to forget those orphans who are in the hospitals. Andrey, 11 years old from (town name), had surgery on his leg (it was 2 inches shorter) and now he has to spend a long time in bed.

We continue to open the doors of our home for orphans and graduate orphans. During the Fall break we had an orphan, Masha, who is in her last year of the orphanage, stay with us for a week. She made good friends with my kids and really enjoyed family stay, rather than staying at the orphanage. Also, it's a great opportunity to disciple. Besides, we have graduate orphan girls come to our home and church.

This month we have a special praise report as after one of our visits to (town name), the teacher has asked us if they may visit our church with the kids. And they did. We took them to children's Bible school and after that we went to McDonald's. It was 15 kids and two teachers. It was a double blessing for us at this time as our government is trying to put down the work of all organizations that have connections with Christianity (as you know they have turned down many foreign missionaries and now the national Christians are pressed), but despite all of that we see good results from our work, and we are ready to go on for as long as there is a way.

We ask you to continue to pray for our ministry and for us personally as we continue to have pressure from the authorities: they have made a determination to shut us down. They have done everything possible to do it. We have had all sorts of check ups, starting from local tax police and ending with the General Prosecutor's office trying to find a way to shut us down. But nothing was found, so we are still on. So, a few weeks ago they went to the owner of the building we rent an office from (it's a private place) and talked to him for three hours trying to make him kick us out, and if we were to lose our address they were going to close us. Usually a 30 day period is given to find a new place, but they use a date that has passed (like a month ago) and shut you down immediately. The guy is tough and didn't do it their way. It helps at least for a while, but they may try to do something else. And we do not know what they will do next. It's really very serious and we need prayers. A lot of them, and especially for protection.

Also, we ask you to pray for our Christmas projects, and we are still looking for Christmas gift donations. Thank you dear friends and may you be specially blessed this season.

We continue to put our trust in Jesus and let him rule our lives and (our ministry).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gospel for Asia's Christmas Program

For a few years now, Gospel for Asia's Texas-based ministry has been offering a Christmas season outreach to impoverished families in India. Much like the seasonal gift catalouges you receive in the mail this time of year, they send their supporters a catouloge of various types of practical gifts we may purchase for souls who are both spiritually and physically hungry.

The purpose of this Christmas giving program is not simply to inundate the Dalits and other poverty-stricken Indians with material possessions, hoping the generosity will lead to conversions. As GFA founder K.P. Yohnanan writes:

As you are well aware, the mission of Gospel for Asia is to proclaim the Gospel and establish New Testament churches among the most unreached people of Asia. How, then, do buffalos, goats, chickens and other farm animals fit into the equation?

The answer is simple: Many of our native missionaries work among the Dalits-the poorest of the poor who daily struggle for survival and who live in slave-like conditions. It is not only painful to see them suffer, but as followers of Christ who deeply care for the poor, we cannot close our hearts to their distress.

Besides livestock (a donor may purchase a pair of egg-producing ckickens for $11; a milking goat for $55, or even a cow for $350), other gifts are available which will help enable the recipients to make a living. For example, a sewing machine ($85) enables a widow to sell clothes in order to feed her family. A tool set ($80) can be used by laborers to make a living, and a new fishing boat ($1,500) provides the means for villagers who lost everything in the tsunami of a few years ago to make a living. Even a sement house can be built through this program for only $5,000. For $30, a donor can choose to purchase a BioSand Water filter, thus providing safe and clean drinking water for several families. A blanket can keep a child warm for only $5. Any of these gifts, given in love, would make a great birthday present for Jesus!

Showing compassion in practical ways to the poor goes hand in hand with telling them about the God Who loves them. As James writes, "If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?" (James 2:16).

Gospel for Asia's steadfast commitment to spreading the Gospel of salvation and improving the existence of people their missionaries love deeply is exactly the type of tenderness expressed by Christ and the early Church. Few of us will ever know the extreme poverty so commonplace in Asia, but most of us have it within our means to show concern for just one family. To read more about Gospel for Asia's Christmas ministry, click here: