Good News in a World of Bad News
There is no shortage of bad news. We are inundated with news of natural and man-made disasters, wars, terrorism, political, economic and social upheavals on a grand scale. The lines of a famous poem come to mind:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
More than one person has told me that they do not want to follow the news because it is all bad and scary. One problem is that most of the news reporting and commentary in the media is done from a purely secular perspective. But do Christians not bring a different perspective to world events? Granted, we all live in the same world and face the same problems. Nevertheless, does it not make a huge difference that we confess our faith in God, the Creator of the world, who loves the world so that He sent Jesus not to condemn it, but to save the world.
The Great Commission Still Stands
Is it not true that the Great Commission, to bring the Gospel to the entire world, is still valid today? This commission came with a promise that Christ is always with us, even to the very end of the age. Although Christianity is in serious decline in the West, even here good things are happening. There are still many times 7000 who have not bowed their knees to Baal. And there are still many instances of faithful obedience to the Great Commission.
Take the amazing mission outreach into South America of the Toronto-based Peoples Church with the leadership of Pastor Charles Price. In October 2011, the Living Truth ministry of this church broadcast a three-part telethon demonstrating how thousands in Guatemala and Columbia are experiencing a life-changing conversion, described as follows:
Millions of Spanish-speaking people are finding new life in Christ, bringing transformation to a society where fear, fatalism and poverty are the common existence.
In this part of the world, there is an incredible moving of the Holy Spirit with an immense capacity to bring hope and solutions to the overwhelming problems of poverty, prostitution, drug trafficking, corruption and a general breakdown of moral values.
Many young girls and boys are drawn into brutal gangs in Guatemala. One such person was Ana who became pregnant at age 13, and again when she was 17. Her home life was filled with fear and violence. She was forced into criminal activity, caught and spent time in jail. Afterwards, she was referred to a shelter for women where she received both physical and spiritual support. When watching a Christian television program, she was deeply moved by the Spirit of God and gave her life to Christ. Ana is now 23 years old and full of hope for her future and for her children.
A major challenge facing the new Christians in Latin America is to grow in biblical doctrine and teaching, while many church leaders have had little training. Here the Living Truth is active in translating and spreading the Spanish version of Charles Prices sermons and books.
Carlos Lopez and his wife and three children are immigrants from Columbia. They started to attend the Peoples Church where they were much impressed with Prices preaching. This was the time the Living Truth staff was turning their attention to the Spanish speaking world. Carlos came to them at just the right time.
He was given the assignment to translate a pilot series of four programs, and in 2010 this was presented to CBM television in Columbia where it was immediately put on the air. Living Truth in Spanish was born, and it is now shown in six Central American countries. Carlos was assigned to produce additional programs in Spanish, and Living Truth has a vision to expand into mainstream TV across 22 countries in Latin America. Recently it started a Spanish Living Truth (Viva La Verdad) website.
Transformation and Forgiveness
Columbia has long had a reputation of being one of the most dangerous countries in the world. It was notorious for its drug cartels, guerrilla warfare, paramilitaries, kidnappings, ransom and violence, which brought with it widespread poverty and despair. But since 2004, there has been a resurgence of Christianity with hundreds of thousands longing to hear the truth of the Bible. Here is a case of fields that are ripe for the harvest. Living Truth reports:
Out of the darkness that has blanketed Columbia for decades, the Gospel is now preached without compromise, and many are experiencing the very real and transforming power of Christ in their lives.
Those who have lived lives of squalor and desperation are discovering that there is a way of escaping their bondage. One such person is Alba Nubia who had a dream to excel in sports, but not having any resources, she ended up on the streets. After eight year of living on drugs and surviving by prostitution, she was broken in body and mind and wanted to die. It was at that time that she met two missionaries who introduced her to Christ. That marked the beginning of a long process of recovery.
For the first time in her life Alba was treated with kindness and love. She was sponsored for two years of rehabilitation in the United States. There she was inspired to start a safe home for women and their children in Bogota. Its called New Life for Women, and now, 22 years later, thousands of women have been given an opportunity not only to escape their lives of desperation but to experience the love of Christ. This centre makes grateful use of the Bible teachings in Spanish made available by Living Truth.
There are many such stories, such as the one of Eduardo, who was successful as a soccer player, but made that his religion and lived a life of self-indulgence until he was introduced to Jesus by his then girlfriend. Gradually, he realized that the Spirit of God was calling him to lead a different life. He now uses his leadership skills to work with the youth of Columbia.
Raquel was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Columbia. She is a missionary in one of the poorest and most violent sections of Bogota where she opened a ministry centre 15 years ago. She ministers to children and through them to their parents, teaching them about the love of Christ.
Russel Stendal grew up in a missionary family. He is a pilot and survivor of a 1983 brutal kidnapping by Marxist guerrillas in Columbia. They held him for five months tied to a tree with a rope around his neck. His captors realized that no large ransom was forthcoming and let him go free. Was Russels response one of anger and resentment? On the contrary, he had compassion for his captors and saw them as being imprisoned in a life without God. He was determined to reach out to them.
He did so by using short wave solar-powered radios, which can hold as many as 200 hours of programming. Over 100,000 of these radios have been used to bring the Gospel to remote villages where there is no electricity, nor radios or television. Many have been dropped by parachute, emitting a signal so that people can find them.
For 20 years Russel developed relations with guerrilla war leaders, including one of his captors. He now operates 16 radio stations with a powerful transmitter provided by the Peoples Church. He has become well known to many on all sides of the conflict. They respect him and let him go freely through their checkpoints so he can go where few dare to go in order to bring the Gospel and distribute Christian literature. Many have left their lives of violence and crime. (For the full, amazing story, see Russell Stendal, Rescue the Captors.)
(For the full, amazing story, see Russell Stendal, Rescue the Captors.)
Eber Medina grew up in the poverty and squalor of a mining town in Columbia where life was cheap and guns plentiful. At age 15, he was hired as a bodyguard for one of the most brutal mine bosses. He was sent to kill a man and he became a ruthless enforcer feared by many. When lying low after another killing, his family begged him to come to church where he heard a preacher speak that touched his heart. The cruel enforcer repented and began to speak to others about a loving God. At first they did not trust him, but eventually they realized that he was indeed a changed man. They were amazed that such a radical change was possible, and it gave them the courage and incentive to embrace Christianity, too.
These stories are just a small sampling of the confirmation that God is able to break through every barrier to the spread of the Gospel. They are reminders that amidst all the bad news in the world, the Good News of the Gospel is renewing hearts and lives, and cultures even in the most unlikely places. Therefore, we need not cower in fear when we see so much going wrong in the world. Instead we may rejoice in the fact that Christ is Lord and his Kingdom is coming.
The information in this article is taken from the Living Truths three-part series, Hope for Latin America. For more information about the exciting ministry of the Peoples Churchs Living Truth in other countries in Latin America and in Africa, see www.livingtruth.ca.