RICHMOND, Va. – Jesus gave His followers a task – to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-19). He commissioned believers to be His heart, His hands and His voice to share the gospel with the world.
Through praying for, giving to and going on mission, Southern Baptists have dedicated themselves to this legacy for more than 160 years.
Yet billions of people do not know Jesus as Lord. This calls for intentional prayer, sacrificial giving and direct responsibility for helping to reach the nearly 3,800 people groups in the world that have no active Christian presence among them. Learn how to adopt an unengaged, unreached people group at call2embrace.org.
More than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban centers. People are migrating into cities in ever-increasing numbers, and that migration brings unique challenges to reach peoples of the cities.
Jesus’ heart cried out for the peoples of the cities: “as (Jesus) approached and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, ‘If you knew this day what (would bring) peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes’” (Luke 19: 41-42 HCSB). This year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) goal is $175 million. Every penny given to the LMCO is used to support nearly 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the gospel overseas. Give to the offering through your local Southern Baptist church or online at imb.org/offering, where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering.
Day 1 – Tokyo
In Japan’s male-dominated society, a man’s identity centers on his work. Companies reward loyalty, hard work, and long hours. But losing one’s position is a fall from grace that leads to shame. For many Japanese, losing a job means losing their identity. For some touched by the ministry of International Mission Board (IMB) workers to the homeless, it means new birth.
Hironobu Honda, Kiyoshi Sugioka, and Katsuo Yamamota are three of the nearly 1 million Japanese who lost their jobs during the global economic decline that began in 2007. As their foundation of pride and self-sufficiency crumbled, all three found themselves homeless. All three contemplated suicide.
Then they found Christ through the witness of IMB personnel helping the homeless in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park. Today these men are involved in small Bible groups throughout Tokyo.
On March 11 a crushing earthquake and tsunami dealt Japan another blow. A nuclear crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant complicated relief efforts and led to the temporary evacuation of American citizens from Tokyo, including IMB missionaries Mark and Wendy Hoshizaki who minister to the homeless.
“Even before the earthquake, the homeless were beginning to ask, ‘What is important? What is real? Isn’t there some hope?’” Mark said.
Sugioka saw opportunities in the crises.
“Japan has been too comfortable and maybe this is what Japan needs to turn to the Lord,” Sugioka said.
Pray that both the earthquake and economic crisis will lead more Japanese to turn from their pride and self-sufficiency to faith in Jesus Christ.
Pray that small groups begun among the homeless will grow into reproducing churches.
Pray the spiritual rebirth among the homeless will spread to other sectors of Japanese society as they become bold witnesses for Christ.
Day 2 – Jerusalem
As Jesus approached Jerusalem for the last time, He wept. He thought about the people within its walls and said, "If you had only known on this day what would bring you peace.” He knew within hours He’d be crucified by the very people for whom He wept.
Would Jesus still look over the city and weep 2,000 years later?
Most believe He would. Jerusalem is a city where stress runs high, and the strain of so many people practicing so many religions in such a small area makes the tension palpable. They seek a blessing or a healing or some connection with God through well-meaning, but mistaken, devotion.
Bitter division resides just below the surface. Christians, Jews, Muslims – no faction would be disappointed if the other two groups would exit the city walls and disappear into the barren countryside. Many who want peace see it as something to be politically brokered.
“We work toward peace, we work toward bridging the gap between cultures and between the differences in people, but really it’s God’s grace and only God’s grace that will ever appear,” says an IMB worker.
“The situation in Jerusalem will decide what will be the situation in the rest of the world,” says a local messianic pastor. When Jesus comes, “there will be peace in Jerusalem and there will be peace in the rest of the world.”
Pray that the people of Jerusalem will begin to recognize the things that bring true peace.
Day 3 – Karachi
Aadam Channar* was only a boy when Baptist missionary Hu Addleton first brought the gospel to his province in Pakistan. Today he is an evangelist trying to reach Pakistan’s largest city.
“Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan. When we arrived there (in 1956), it was 1 million population. Now it’s 17 to 18 million,” said Addleton, who retired after serving 34 years in Pakistan with his wife, Bettie. “It is a picture of the whole country, because you have every ethnic group living in Karachi.”
About 97 percent of Karachi follows Islam. Christians make up only about 2 percent of the city’s population, according to the U.S. State Department.
Channar grew up in a tiny Hindu village very different from the bustling hub of Karachi, but that did not keep him from approaching the city with the intention of sharing the good news of Jesus among its many people groups.
“God gave me this vision: ‘Go (to) Karachi. Leave your home, area, village.’ So God sent me here,” Channar said. “That’s why I am in Karachi.”
Addleton, who discipled Channar, encourages Southern Baptists to continue giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
“We ought to continue to pray for (Pakistani Christians) and to challenge people to go,” Addleton said.
Please pray for Channar as he represents the Lord as His heart, His hands, His voice in the city of Karachi, and ask that more Pakistani Christians would respond to God’s call to do the same.
Day 4 – London
Though she has always lived in London, Fatimah grew up observing her family’s Islamic rituals, just as if she were living in her father’s homeland of Iraq. And she has faithfully passed these traditions on to her own children. Fatimah’s parents make the hajj to Mecca every year, and she has been five times herself, she says.
“We don’t drink alcohol or smoke, so we save that money to use to go to Mecca,” she explains. “It’s really lovely there, like a festival, with everyone there for the same purpose,” she says, her eyes shining as brightly as the tiny diamond piercing her nose.
Fatimah lives in an area of west London teeming with ethnic restaurants, clothing shops, mosques, and Sikh temples. To walk the streets of Southall is to encounter a very different London from what most tourists to Britain experience.
“London is an amazing place to get to relate to people from all over the world,” says Patrick Sims*, IMB missionary. This multicultural aspect of London brought Sims, strategy leader for the London team, to work here nearly a decade ago.
The world has indeed come to London: schoolchildren here speak more than 200 languages, and more than 40 percent of London schoolchildren speak a language other than English at home. As in urban settings everywhere, building relationships is a challenge for missionaries serving here.
Pray for missionaries in London to develop deep, cross-cultural relationships in this urban environment.
Day 5 – Johannesburg
Lisha* was just a little girl who trusted her pastor, but he raped her. As a teenager she trusted her friend, but he raped her repeatedly. When Lisha’s mom found out she was pregnant, she kicked Lisha out, forcing her to find a home with her abusive boyfriend. He soon realized he could profit from selling Lisha to his buddies for sex. Lisha is now 33 years old and still trapped in forced prostitution.
Lisha is just one of an estimated 27 million victims of human trafficking around the world. Human trafficking is the practice of deceiving individuals or taking them against their will, selling, buying, and transporting them into slavery. Trafficking encompasses more than just sexual exploitation; men, women, and children are also trafficked for forced labor.
IMB missionary Martha Richards*, who lives in Johannesburg, met Lisha while researching trafficking in South Africa. As Lisha shared her story, Richards was eager to help girls escape from bondage.
“We need to open our eyes and take a hard look at the reality around us,” Richards says. “Many of these girls have never received genuine love. They desperately need to know the love of Jesus.”
Richards tried to help Lisha and another woman escape, but their “owner” found them and forced them back into prostitution.
Pray that God would save trafficking victims and their owners. Ask Him how He wants you to join the global fight against trafficking, whether through prayer, support, or personally rescuing victims of modern-day slavery.
Day 6 – Dongguan
Factories are the bus stops and the monuments and the landmarks. Everything exists to serve them in Dongguan, China.
The city is divided into 32 districts, each one specializing in a different kind of manufacturing with more than 3,000 factories crammed into one town.
IMB worker David Rice* believes that by reaching the factories with the gospel, an entire generation of migrant workers will take the message back to their homes. These villages are often so remote that they are not even on a map, let alone on the radar of Christian strategists.
“People come here from all over the country looking for a job,” Rice says, noting in one year’s time he has met at least one person from all 34 provinces.
Rice and his ministry partner, Delun Kao*, see this group of 10 million 17- to 35-year-olds primed for making major changes in their lives. They are away from the strongholds of their culture back home. They are lonely and searching for meaning.
“We know they won’t stay here forever,” Kao says, noting that most return to the village by age 35. “So, the goal is to train them to be a catalyst for a new church.”
Through the years, Kao’s seen the training model work as migrants return to their villages and start new fellowships. Still others switch factories and start churches in their new workplace.
Pray that factory workers in China will open their hearts to the gospel and take it back to the village.
Pray how you will give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to support workers like Rice who partner with national believers to be His heart, His hands, His voice.
Day 7 – European city
Sanaz left Iran with nothing but her daughter and a will to live.
At 27 years old she had seen enough destruction. Her workplace, her family, her hopes for the future had been chewed up in a political machine determined to obliterate dissent. Not knowing whether her husband was dead or alive, she set out on an invisible passageway well trafficked by refugees fleeing oppression in North Africa, Afghanistan, and Iran.
She ended up on the crowded doorstep of a European city.
Here she found a government overrun with requests from asylum seekers. She found a society groaning under economic pressures not helped by a burgeoning immigrant community. Instead of freedom to pursue a new life, she found barriers.
Until some Afghan friends told her about a place where IMB workers are welcoming weary travelers. With food, training, and the good news, they are helping refugees find spiritual freedom – perhaps not what they left home to find, but something better.
For Sanaz, this has made all the difference. “I have hope that my future is bright because my heavenly Father is with me.”
Pray for IMB workers in this European city to have wisdom and skill in crossing cultural and language barriers with refugees who are arriving daily from places like Afghanistan and Iran.
Day 8 – Rio de Janeiro
Sprawling along the hillsides beneath the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio de Janeiro is a city of juxtaposition. A middle-class gated community may share a wall with a gang-controlled slum. This proximity allows Eric and Ramona Reese to reach out to both extremes within the Brazilian megacity.
While Eric focuses on ministering in the favelas (slums), Ramona reaches out to the middle-class wives and mothers she encounters as she works out at the gym or takes their two daughters to school and ballet practice.
“We’re here in the city, and we try to make relationships with the people who are around us,” Ramona says.
One person Ramona has become friends with is Eliane Santos, a mother she met at the ballet studio. “We were just sitting and talking,” Eliane says. “Eventually, Ramona shared Christ and asked if I had asked Christ into my heart. I said, ‘No, I haven’t.’”
That night in her home, Eliane reflected on Ramona’s message and placed her faith in Jesus.
“I look to Ramona as a mother in the faith,” Eliane says. “She’s someone that encourages me and makes me want to go on.”
When Ramona heard about Eliane’s conversion, she was overjoyed.
“Go out and seek the lost,” Ramona says. “Relationships are what it’s all about.”
Pray God will help the Reeses be His heart, hands, and voice as they build strong relationships with Brazilians from opposite walks of life.
Pray many Brazilians will accept Christ through these friendships.