by Sharon Mumper
Reports from around the world.
In Peru: Unleashing a holy war
"Holy war is unleashed," screamed Peru’s tabloids last spring as evangelicals rallied behind dark-horse Alberto Fujimori in a presidential run-off election. The news made its way around the world, generating perhaps the most publicity Peru’s tiny evangelical community has ever garnered.
At 3 percent of an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic population, evangelicals could not be expected to make much impact. Surprisingly, their candidate won. Even more amazingly, some 13 prominent evangelicals were elected to the senate and chamber of deputies, Peru’s top law-making bodies.
It is a moment of opportunity for Peru, says veteran missionary Dennis Smith, now United Kingdom secretary for the Evangelical Union of South America, a mission agency with nearly 80 years of experience in Peru. "We are absolutely thrilled that God’s people have a chance to bring a voice for righteousness into areas that traditionally have been corrupt," he says. Smith notes England’s history was changed by a generation of social reformers who came out of the evangelical movement.
The question is whether evangelicals will be able to significantly impact Peru’s government. "Latin American politics are traditionally places of great temptation for politicians," says Smith. "We would want to see these men stand firm." They need consistent prayer on the part of all evangelicals, he says.
Unfortunately, they may not be getting it. There is much disagreement and even outright division in many churches over the issue of Christian involvement in politics. "And, there is understandable nervousness on the part of many that this interest in politics should not rob the church of its vital and capable leaders," says Smith.
He is concerned, too, that evangelicals could be blamed if the government fails to meet Peruvian expectations. Such an outcome is not unlikely. Peru is probably the least governable nation in South America. "Loss of political and social control is very close," says Smith. "We have a sense of nervousness that the evangelical church is being asked to take a position of leadership for which it is not prepared."
Guerrilla movements, and in particular the radically-communist Sendero Luminosa, have crippled Peru. They control a third of the country’s territory, and have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to interrupt power and water supplies to Lima, where over a quarter of the country’s population live. In the last eight years since the movement became active, some 30,000 Peruvians have died or disappeared in rebel-related violence. Evangelicals in particular have been caught in the crossfire, as fighting has moved into countryside strongholds of evangelicalism. Whole churches have been wiped out and scores of pastors and church leaders have been killed.
The country is literally bankrupt. It has defaulted on its international loans and is unlikely to get more. Nor can it "pull itself up by its own bootstraps," says Smith. It is plagued by endemic social problems. A white monied urban class is dwarfed by a desperately poor mixed-race Mestizo population. Only in recent times has a fledgling middle class emerged.
The social polarization and disparity in wealth and opportunity will have to be dealt with, many experts say, before Peru can even begin to find healing. Evangelicals have already begun to reach across the gaping social divide. "They have done very well at coming to the aid of sisters in persecuted areas," says Smith. "TMs disaster has brought evangelicals together."
Nevertheless, the country’s future does not look good. "The time has come for the Spirit’s power to be shown in Peru," says Smith. "It is time for awakening—beginning with Christians."
Perhaps what this tormented country needs most is the kind of prayer to which Youth With A Mission called its worldwide staff in March. "We need to pray for Peru that the hand of judgment would be lifted; that the violence would be stopped," YWAM Executive International Director Floyd McClung said. "We need to pray that godly men and women would be raised up in positions of leadership, that the poor would be cared for, and the good news preached."
In China: Dancing to Beijing’s tune
Beyond their lip service to orthodoxy, China’s intellectuals today mull their own secret thoughts and wait. Like dancers mouthing a lip-synche rendition of an old familiar tune, they merely go through motions choreographed from Beijing.
"It’s a joke," is how one foreign teacher bluntly describes the intensified political education program and military training for freshmen. If it is a joke, it is not a funny one.
"Most people don’t take political study seriously," said the teacher, who asked not to be identified. "They know they have to go along with it, and they put on a show of conforming, but they really don’t believe it."
Nevertheless, in the tighter atmosphere of her second year of teaching after what teachers and students delicately refer to as "the June 4 incident," some people apparently didn’t dare to continue relationships begun the previous year. Many people still felt free to visit a foreign teacher, she said, but communist party members with whom she had developed relationships the previous year were suddenly very busy.
Other people are taking the new conservatism more seriously, and many house churches are feeling the effect. Local governments that previously allowed unregistered churches to operate are cracking down now. Even China’s most widely-known house church, the 800-member Damazhan Fellowship in Canton, has been forced to disband, and its pastor subjected to frequent interrogations.
Nevertheless, the church in China continues to grow, reinforced in part by fresh recruits from the ranks of last year’s student idealists, thousands of whomâ€”confronted with the bankruptcy of communismâ€”are now turning to Christianity. Once again, as members of a burgeoning new house church movement comprised primarily of intellectuals, they are finding themselves on a collision course with the authorities.
Nevertheless, persecution is not a problem for the church, one Beijing house church pastor told News Network International. "The challenges facing the Chinese church in the nineties will not have anything to do with questions of relationship to the state," he said, "but the challenge of coping with our undiscipled millions."
In Djibouti: The waiting room for hell
The French legionnaires called the stony desert country "Hell’s Waiting Room." Completely lacking in natural resources, and absolutely barren, tiny Djibouti in northeast Africa is reputedly the world’s hottest country. Clinging to a patch of land between Ethiopia and Somalia at the southern entrance to the Red Sea, the oven republic’s primary resource is the capital city’s port, the terminal of the Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway that carries 60 percent of Ethiopia’s foreign trade.
Attempts to establish an indigenous church have proved as barren as the desert environment. The first attempt was squelched by French rulers in the 1960s. Two other attempts since Djibouti won its independence in 1977 have failed for internal reasons, basically because of young and inexperienced leadership.
Nearly all Djibouti’s 430,000 citizens are Muslim. Apart from a handful of Christians remaining from early attempts to begin a church, all Christians are expatriate, primarily French or Ethiopian.
A relatively new factor in the Christian equation is the arrival of large numbers of Christian Ethiopian refugees, according to Ulrich Bruderer, secretary of the Swiss branch of the Red Sea Mission. The mission, which has worked in Djibouti since 1975, was until very recently the only evangelical mission agency in the country.
Ethiopians in Djibouti are experiencing revival, says Bruderer, and although Djiboutians have not yet been affected, some Ethiopians are beginning to pray for their Djibouti neighbors and to make approaches to them.
Despite the fact most Djiboutians are Muslim, in recent years Christians have enjoyed considerable freedom. In addition to their work in education, agriculture, and medicine, the Red Sea Mission has a Christian bookstore, which displays the Bible in the front window.
The outlook for Christian freedom in the country is not good, however. Saudi Arabia is building a giant oil refinery, which promises to provide badly-needed jobs. Libya is also building in Djibouti, and other Muslim countries are pouring money into the impoverished country. Such aid rarely comes without strings attached.
Bruderer recognizes the possibility that some day the mission may have to leave. "But even if the mission has to go eventually, the Ethiopians will still be there," he says. This fact is not lost on the Ethiopian Christians. "Maybe there is a reason we have not been able to emigrate," some Ethiopian Christians mused recently. "Maybe God is keeping us here as a witness to Djibouti." Perhaps yet a bit of the kingdom of heaven will penetrate the waiting room for hell.
In Europe: A flame Ignites
Ninety percent of Belgians over the age of 40 do not possess a BMe…Only one in 1,000 French citizens are born-again Christians, In what some call "Post-Christian Europe" and others in faith call "Pre-Christian Europe," chilling statistics like these abound. Is Western Europe indeed a spiritual wasteland and "the most neglected mission field on earth," as some church growth experts declare?
Perhaps. But the frightening figures are not the whole story. Something is going on among young people in Europe, says Silvano Perotti, chairman of The European Missionary Association (TEMA). "In the last 10 or 15 years there has been a spiritual awakening among European young people. It is not a conflagration yet, "he says. "But small fires are springing up here and there and fanning out."
He says Christianity increasingly is being seen as a valid option, rather than the perogative of a few fringe fanatics. ‘Things are changing," he says. TEMA’s Mission ’90 congress early this year drew some 9,300 mostly young and mostly Western European participants from 45 countries. It was TEMA’s fifth missionary congress for European youth since 1974, and an indication of a growing interest in missions among youth.
George Verwer, international director of Operation Mobilization, terms as "exciting" a rising European missions concern. "In Europe, we are drawing from a church that is 5 to 10 percent of the size of the church in the US." he says. "Nevertheless, in O.M., we are growing so fast, we are at a breaking point. And the biggest group in O.M. continues to be European."
In the arena of missions as in every other area, Europe is by no means monolithic. In largely Lutheran Norway, missions is an old and respected career. Norway boasts the largest number of missionaries per capita in the worldâ€”some 2,000 foreign missionaries supported by a total population of 4.2 million, according to Egil Grand-hagen, general secretary of the Norwegian Lutheran Mission.
By contrast, missions interest in France is minimal, according to Delores Lasse, who with her husband represents Africa Inland Mission."The French do not have a vision for the world," she says. In a country where evangelicals comprise less than 1 percent of the population, churches tend to be small and struggling, bent primarily on maintaining their own survival.
Most other European countries are somewhere between the two extremes.
"There is far more going on for God in Europe than anyone knows," asserts Verwer. Nevertheless, he calls on Europeans to consider missions to other parts of Europe. While celebrating a fresh missions interest among youth, Perotti also calls for ministry to Europe. "By evangelical, Bible-believing criteria, the vast majority of so-called Christian Europe has not really beeen confronted with the gospel of salvation," he says. "Europe still is a tremendous field."
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