A New Year of Life and Death

A New Year of Life and Death

On the very first day of this new year, a large earthquake shook Japan once again. Buildings tumbled, streets buckled, fires erupted. Memories of the devastating earthquake and tsunami of 2011 fueled fears all the more. Death and destruction were on full display. Believers around the world prayed,“God have mercy on Japan!” How many are perishing without knowledge and understanding of the Savior? How many are seeking some good news in the midst of this tumultuous world? When will they hear? When will they believe? When will they turn from sin and experience LIFE in the Lord?

But let’s rewind. Before the earthquake on January 1st, something wonderful happened. On a quiet beach on an island of Malaysia, just as the sun had come up on 2024, LIFE was in full display. Four Japanese people obediently followed Jesus in baptism. The very first baptisms of Japanese people that our team has witnessed in Malaysia. Praise God! He is at work. These four will most certainly face opposition and condemnation for their faith in Jesus, especially if they return to Japan. But here they stand, declaring their allegiance to the only One who can rescue them from sin and death. 

Join us in prayer for these new Japanese disciples to multiply!

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THE ENCOURAGING EAVESDROPPER
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“I’m Baptized!”

“I’m Baptized!”

After months of doing Discovery Bible Studies with Sue, Havva decided she wanted to be a Jesus follower. 

Knowing that it’s generally better to baptize someone together with their closest community, the women pondered whether to wait for Havva’s husband to come to faith too. And where could they hold the baptism? Bathtubs are rare in their part of West Asia. They brought these matters before God. 

When Havva remembered a public pool she once visited, she called immediately. “Okay, I’m just going to tell you straight,” she said to the owner. “I’m going to be baptized, so I want to come when no one else is around.”

“Oh really?! I’m so happy for you!” the man said. “Yes, please come early. We open at 10, but you can come at nine before anyone else arrives. We’ll be waiting for you.”

Havva and Sue were not expecting that response! On the contrary, a more expected reaction in a 99%-Muslim country would have been anger and a lecture on why she shouldn’t do it. They were amazed! God had made a way.

Later that day, Sue saw a man with a Matthew 28:19 T-shirt walk past … in the middle of Islamic West Asia. “All I could do was gawk as he walked by,” Sue says. “When I finally collected myself, I breathlessly read the verse to Havva, and in [Havva’s language] the verb “baptize” is written in the command form. It hit me like a ton of bricks: the Father is confirming His will to us: ‘Do it.’ I had been worrying, but God had given us a place and a command.”

The following morning when they were in the warm pool waters, Sue got momentarily caught up in the mechanics of how to baptize someone in a pool with no shallow end. “But Havva was focused and got it done,” Sue recalls. “She said, ‘In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I’m baptized!’ And then she dipped under the water and popped back up. 

“I love that Havva was so determined that she didn’t need me to say or do anything; I just put my hand on her back as she went underwater. It was such a joyful morning! Our Father showered us with His kindness and care because we’re His beloved daughters.”

Sue asks that we pray for Havva to have the opportunity to baptize her husband and daughter when they, too, become followers of Jesus. Her husband is close, but something is still blocking him. Ask the Father for another miracle of faith. 

BALKING AT BAPTISM
Three thousand people believing and being baptized in one day?! It sounds too good to be true, yet we know it is.
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More Baptisms, the Fruit of Persecution

More Baptisms, the Fruit of Persecution

On behalf of the disciple-making movement in North India, Ethan* and Nicole* report:

“We’ve shared much with you about the persecution faced by the churches in India. Our last report was especially hard. It hurt to share the news about the woman’s martyrdom, and it probably hurt you to read it. 

“Recently. we heard from Sanjay* concerning the status of the work for January. More people received baptism in January, and more house churches were established than during the last six months of 2022. Six months’ fruit in just one month! How?!

“Here’s what Sanjay said:

“‘By God’s grace, we are experiencing intense persecution, but the work has increased! One thing we’ve seen is people more quickly want baptism and to be identified with Jesus. Before, we were often baptizing in larger groups [20, 30, even 50 people] in localized gatherings. With persecution, we need baptisms happening in every home, and [the people] want it quickly. They no longer wait until [another] community is ready to join them in a baptism event. Now they just get it done. They don’t need to wait for those larger baptism events, and they really can’t gather like that anymore [anyway]. It’s too visible.’

“In other words, in response to persecution, leaders are choosing to move ahead and quickly do what’s commanded (‘baptize them’ in Matt. 28:19). They feel the urgency of obedience. And the new disciples are feeling the same urgency.

“Early in the Gospels, we see this same urgency. Jesus gave responsibility and authority to His disciples (who knew very little) to baptize others. [Jesus] ‘was making and baptizing more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were)’ (John 4:1-2, bold mine).

“Our brothers and sisters in India don’t want you to elevate them or raise them up as heroes. They are normal people, with families, jobs, and the concerns and stresses of life. They are simply obedient to the commands of Jesus.

“Please celebrate with us what God is doing in India — what only He can do — and also pray for these brothers and sisters. It’s a daily battle there. I am not talking about a battle between religions. I am talking about the battle to obey Jesus, love Him, and persevere and love one’s enemy when faced with beating, arrest, even death. To live out Hebrews 10:36-39 requires God’s abundant grace, every day. What a relief, that what is impossible with us is possible with God.”

*pseudonym

WHERE TWO WORLDS COLLIDE
Ethan* and Nicole* receive almost daily messages from Sanjay* and John* about the persecution the disciples and house churches face. The hardest of these messages was that a lady was martyred. She and read more …

EXPECT AND TRAIN FOR PERSECUTION
Preparing people for persecution starts before they become Jesus followers. This has to do with how we present the gospel. Some people share Christ this way: “Become a Christian. You will have joy and peace.  read more …

Balking at Baptism

Balking at Baptism

Three thousand people believing and being baptized in one day?! It sounds too good to be true, yet we know it is. The second chapter of Acts records this supernatural event. Thousands of people “from every nation” heard the loud arrival of the Holy Spirit and came to investigate. Filled by the Holy Spirit, Peter’s words pierced the hearts of 3,000 people. Answering their stricken question, “What should we do?” Peter responds, “repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” In verse 41, we read, “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.”

Perhaps you can think of other instances of groups of people believing and being baptized the same day or soon thereafter? (Cornelius, Lydia, the jailer, etc.) Actually, in the book of Acts, there are only three times when a lone individual comes to faith in Jesus. The vast majority of people who came to Christ in Acts came as part of a group.

And we see it happening today.

In North India, the Banjara are a poor and marginalized people. They live in tents next to open sewage at the side of the road. They eat leftovers that people throw to dogs. They get run out of town. Their children don’t attend school. Society has taught them that this is what they deserve. Life is very difficult for them.

But through Sanjay, a movement catalyst in India, many Banjara have heard the Good News and become disciples of Jesus. Among them are a man named Arjan and his family. Soon after believing, Arjan’s entire family (he, his wife, and their three young children) were baptized. In a nearby town, however, other Banjara believers had reservations about being baptized. As baptism is a public declaration of loyalty to Jesus, many feared retribution from their neighbors and their old gods. They wondered, too, if God would test their newfound allegiance with trials they could not bear. They were afraid. Wasn’t life already hard enough?

Wanting to embolden them to take this step of obedience, Sanjay brought Arjan to speak to this Banjara community about his baptism experience. When Arjan spoke about Jesus, he pointed out that Jesus Himself had experienced testing. He was tested by the devil for 40 days in the wilderness. And He prevailed. He was not defeated by His enemy. And so, because He has already been tested and come through victorious, we, too, can face our fears, our potential tests or trials, knowing that anything we face is nothing when compared to what He faced. He walked the road of testing before us so that when our turn came, we’d be able to walk it, too. We have nothing to fear.  He went on to say, “I thank God that when my child was about one year old, my whole family, came to God together,” Arjan told them. “From the oldest to the youngest, we came . . . all five of us took baptism together. And you would think that after this, we would have fallen into big (troubles). But no. Not at all. Everything changed. For the better. We felt joy.”

Far from regretting his decision, Arjan shared that his family was only glad they had been baptized. The terrible tests and pressures that he thought would come never materialized. Their greatest fears did not come true. In fact, the opposite happened. Blessings came. “And so I am telling you,” Arjan concluded, “you should absolutely remove from your minds any thoughts that after baptism, insurmountable (afflictions or persecution) will occur . . .. Please do it. Because Jesus has already given proof of his superiority, (and) you have already put your faith in Him. We are left with absolute life. Hallelujah!”

An announcement was made that a baptism would occur in three days. When the day arrived, more than half of the families were baptized together as a proclamation of their faith and allegiance to Jesus. Hallelujah, indeed!

*pseudonyms used