by Ruth Tucker
A selection of significant articles about missions.
"Spiritual Warfare. Lifeline, UFM International, 306 Bala Avenue, Bala-Cynwyd, Pa. 19004.
Spiritual warfare is a hot topic in Christian circles today, and it is tempting to sensationalize it and make it the subject of a riveting novel or a conference seminar. But for many Christians, spiritual warfare is very real, as the cover story and a series of articles in the November, 1991, issue of Lifeline suggest.
Three of the articles focus on Brazil. In "Pigs and Demons," Irene Benson tells the story of Kuruyeme, a Christian WaiWai Indian who, after going on a pig hunt, was tormented in his dreams by pigs. When he became ill, a pig told him he was responsible. "The pig told him that a certain bird’s nest or the bark from a certain tree would help him. Pigs and such ‘remedies’ were often related to the spirit world of the Indians."
Kuruyeme told the pigs to leave him alone, but their hold on him was real. "In spite of medication and care, Kuruyeme developed diarrhea and sores on his mouth," and he died not long afterward. He had wanted to live and serve God as an evangelist, but he was convinced that it was God’s will that he die because if he lived "he would easily fall back into his old ways of witchcraft."
In "Spiritism is Strong in Brazil," Paul and Ivani Jantz tell of another form of spiritual warfare that missionaries and native Brazilians confront. "Missionaries in Brazil must face a strong and powerful wave of doctrine begun by the French philosopher, Allan Kardec. When Kardec’s satanic spiritist doctrine came to Brazil in 1869, there were many who resisted it. Forty years ago only 1.6% of all Brazilians were declared spiritists; now 4.6%, or 6.9 million Brazilians, are strong believers of Allan Kardec."
"The five pillars of Kardecism are the human trinity, reincarnation, communication with the dead, karma theory, and salvation by charity. Millions become spiritists because of the convenient teaching that we can talk with dead loved ones via mediums. Hell is what we are going through now on earth."
"Heresies, Persecution and Cults in China." East Asia’s Millions, Overseas Missionary Fellowship, 404 S, Church Street, Robesonia, Pa. 19551.
The amazing growth of the church in China over the past decades has been offset to some extent by the influx of heresies, cultic movements, and a new wave of persecution. This story is told in "The Church in China: The Best of Times; The Worst of Times," by Nancy Floyd in the Winter, 1991, issue of East Asia’s Millions.
Since the Tiananmen Square massacre, many religious leaders have been arrested-countless more, intimidated by authorities. "The unregistered house churches, where evangelical Christianity is strongest, have been singled out for special abuse. Their meetings have been prohibited and often raided. Their carefully hoarded supplies of Christian literature have been the subject of ruthless searches and automatic confiscation."
This religious crackdown has facilitated the growth of heresies. The shortage of trained leaders and literature has caused many Christians to be "deceived and drawn into a number of cults that dot the countryside… For example, a group in Henan believes they aren’t saved until they hear a voice say, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ To escape hell they knock their heads against walls and weep and scream loudly…. A group known as the ‘yeller’s sect’ have misinterpreted Christ’s returning with a Shout to mean He will only return if they shout loudly enough. Consequently, members of this group are constantly screaming out the Lord’s name."
Apocalyptic speculation also abounds-often fueled by the more 7,000 poorly trained independent evangelists, who often travel from village to village seeking to save souls. "Some believers in Henan calculated Christ’s second coming for December of 1989. They stopped cultivating their farms, killed their poultry, sold their possessions and waited. After the date passed, church attendance declined severely until an evangelist, fluent in this particular language, corrected their mistaken interpretation."
The past couple of years tally have been the best of times and the worst of times for the church in China. "In spite of repression, division and biblical ignorance, thrilling stories of continuing growth pour in. In one small province recently, 109 communist party officials converted to Christianity."
"Liberian Bishop: Augustus "Gus" Marwieh." RTS Ministry, Reformed Theological Seminary, 5422 Clinton Blvd., Jackson, Miss. 39209.
"Who could know in 1928 that God would transform little Gbatoe from a naked little jungle boy into Bishop Augustus ‘Gus’ Marwieh, today one of Liberia’s leading evangelists and a student in the RTS Doctor| of Missiology program?" This is the lead sentence in an article entitled "Naked Little Jungle Boy," in the Winter, 1991, issue of RTS Ministry.
Marwieh’s early childhood in Liberia was not a happy one. Soon after he was born, a medicine man determined his problems with boils were due to the anger of his deceased cousin. In the years that followed, Marwieh had behavioral difficulties and was cruelly punished: "Many limes they me to the ground and held my feet, head, and hand and poured hot pepper soup down my nose. I nearly choked to death, and my nose burned for hours, I saw first-hand that men can not change a human being by punishment. God must change him."
And God did change Marwieh. At about age 13 he heard for the first time from a cousin who had returned from another village that God could hear prayers. Like the people in his village, he had believed in God, but not a personal God, who was close enough to hear mere humans speak only ancestors could do that.
"I was eager to pray to God, so I asked this boy if we could go to some quiet place and pray. He told me he not interested at all." So, Marwieh went off by himself and prayed. For two years he sought God through prayer alone. Then, after moving to another village, he learned about Jesus for the first time and was ready to make a commitment of faith.
In the years that followed, Marwieh’s pilgrimage became a series of one achievement after another. He enrolled in a tiny village school founded by Eliza Davis-George, an African-American missionary who devoted her life to ministry in Liberia. Within a year he was reading the Bible and committing to memory large portions of the New Testament.
He went on to high school in Monrovia, graduating valedictorian of his class, while at the graduating with honors from a night school business course. From there he went to America to attend UCLA and Simpson Bible College and then on to seminary. In the years since, he has served his country in the field of education, headed mission agencies, hosted a TV ministry, and founded and presided over the Association of the Independent Church of Africa.
"Hispanics in North America." Christianity Today, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, III. 60188.
The phenomenal growth of the evangelical church in Latin America has been widely publicized, while the growth of the Hispanic church here at home is often ignored. "Viva Los Evangelicos!" by Andres Tapia (Christianity Today, October 28, 1991) helps to fill that information gap.
"In addition to being the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S., Hispanics are also the fastest-growing segment of the Protestant Church….In the past two decades, the growth has occurred at a dizzying rate," In most instances this growth has come by the conversion of those who have been nominally Roman Catholic- ones who have felt alienated from the of their heritage. "The Latin American Catholic church, which was virtually left untouched by Vatican II, is very different from, its U.S. counterpart. The result is that the U.S Catholic church feels foreign to many Latin American immigrants."
Furthermore, the Catholic Church is very short on Hispanic leadership, both on the professional and lay level, "In contrast, the Southern Baptist Convention claims to have 2,400 Hispanic pastors, while the Pentecostal denominations and independent churches have an estimated total of 4,200." Perhaps even more significant is the fact that "three times as many Hispanics are enrolled in Protestant seminaries schools of theology as are enrolled in Catholic seminaries."
Aggressive evangelism, combined with informal and spontaneous church services and an eagerness to serve those in need, has made the Hispanic church a force to be reckoned with. Not surprisingly, this has created tensions with the Roman Catholic Church, which often equates Protestant growth with sheep-stealing. But the Catholic Church is not beyond refashioning its worship into one that is more Protestant-oriented, as was evident in Pope John Paul II’s mass in Los Angeles some years ago. According to Isaac Canales, "It could have been a Billy Graham crusade. The mass included a popular liturgy, Protestant hymns such as ‘.How Great Thou Art,’ a focus on Jesus rather than on the virgin of Guadalupe." This Protestant influence is also evident, in Miami, where some Hispanic Catholics use James D, Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion.
But these efforts will do little to stem the tide of Hispanic conversion to Protestantism. The decade of the 1990s will see even more rapid growth of the Hispanic evangelical church.
"The Hispanic influx is changing, both the Hispanics coming in and the evangelical church as a whole," writes Tapia, "If partnership can be achieved, the church will end up much richer and stronger,"
"The Columbus Quincentenary." The Missionary Messenger, 1978 Union Ave., Memphis, Tenn. 38104.
To celebrate, or not to celebrate, is the question for 1.992, For a year now a debate has been raging -especially among Roman Catholics-over Christopher Columbus and how he ought to be remembered 500 years after his historic voyage from Spain to the new world. Some people may think there is nothing more to add to the debate, but Marilou Awiakta offers a perspective that deserves hearing. Her article, entitled "Knowing the Truth About Columbus: A Native American Call to Wisdom," is the lead story in the October, 1991, issue of The Missionary Messenger (published by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church).
Critics might charge her with shattering the image of a hero, but, unlike so many Columbus debunkers, she offers her readers a positive role model exchange.
Awiakta credits Christopher Columbus for leaving a legacy of written observations about the native Americans. Among other things, he wrote that the "Indians" were "so naive and free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone…."
But what Columbus-from his monarchial political perspective- perceived as naivete was actually a pattern of living which "taught the principles of sharing, cooperation and living in harmony with the environment and with each other."
Lack of understanding, however, was the least of his shortcomings. Although Columbus perceived his "discovery" to be God’s means of converting the native Americans, his real concern lay in commercial interests.
"He assured their majesties (Ferdinand and Isabella) that if they would fund his next voyage, he would bring them in return, ‘as much gold as they need….and as many slaves as they ask.’ Thus, Columbus sounded the keynote of the attitude of Manifest Destiny: that the powerful of Europe, being superior, had the right to ‘use and consume’ not only the new land but also its in-people, who were ‘uncivilized’ and ‘pagan,’…. Within a century, the Native of the Caribbean-some estimates say 5-7 million-were dead."
But not all Europeans who came to the New World had such attitudes, If Columbus was not the hero we thought he was there are other heroes to whom we can pay tribute-among those the great Bartholome de las Casas, a Catholic priest who "was an eyewitness to the genocide in the is lands after Columbus came. He vehemently protested Spanish policies of cruelty, conquest and slavery"-a story is powerfully told in his multivolume History of the Indies.
Las Casas fought against the oppression of the Native Americans-, oppression that began with the "discovery" made by Columbus, Perhaps the time has, indeed, come to begin re-evaluating our heroes.
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