As important to Muslims as the Hajj is, it's also one of the more dangerous events they will attend. Travelling to Mecca has been one of the five pillars of Islam for more than 1,000 years, and it hasn't scaled well with the growth of the religion. Hundreds of people are trampled every year by pilgrims attempting to atone for their sins—many of these elderly, looking to store up bonus points before they die. Dying on the Hajj is viewed as a sign of great devotion, a fact which sometimes prevents proper safety standards from being implemented. The pilgrimage is supposed to absolve one of past sins; many delay until late in life in order to have less time afterward to sin and therefore to have to pay off those sins.
The same concept leads many to dedicate huge sums of money into the construction of mosques. While it is already difficult to travel more than a few blocks without discovering a mosque, many continue to be built in order to earn points before God. While not a part of orthodox doctrine, common belief dictates that building a mosque will win favor with God. It plays into the mindset of being able to purchase a place in heaven.
Lord, these people are still trying to build their way to heaven. The tower of Babel has become a road to Mecca, and neither leads to you. They need you to open their eyes so that they can see the way that you've prepared, the price that you've paid, and the willingness you had to suffer for us.
“I go now to prepare a place for you. And if I go prepare a place, I will come back again, that where I am there you may be also.” John 14:2
EQUIPPING THE CHURCH
A North African proverb says that sometimes when the mother stork feeds her babies, she pokes them in the eye. There are people who have a lot of resources and desire to help that sometimes do more harm than good. In the North African church, money is often one of those issues.
Sometimes it seems that for one to be a leader in the church means that he receives a sponsorship from outside sources and that he travels outside the country to conferences and travels around the country visiting other groups.
True discernment is difficult when opportunities are available that require greater resources. One group stated their commitment to not let resources come to control them by saying that training would first be located inside the local fellowship, and, when necessary, in the city, and, on occasion, in a central gathering in the country. This group would not even consider leaving the country, so that they would remain locally reproducible, without relying on foreigners for resources. Groups with such a clarity of vision can be hard to find, and harder to replicate. Many mature, charismatic leaders are snatched up by outside agencies. For some, this is the definition of success, that an outside agency would want them to be their representative.
Father, we ask today for you to raise up the leaders in this country. Help them to focus on their own people, and provide for their needs without foreign influence. Let us know how we can assist without creating dependence.
“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27
The girl seemingly had her future lined up. She had worked hard to get through university and was now seeking every opportunity to continue her studies in the States. A Christian worker was helping her sift through the possibilities. After a phone call one afternoon, everything changed. A guy had made an offer of marriage to her family, and the girl was forsaking everything she had valued to become his wife. A few months later, having seemingly forgotten about her career, she settled into the role as housewife, virtually cut off from the outside world.
Arranged marriages are still the preferred way for many new families to start. These marriages often leave the girl vulnerable and powerless to change her circumstances. In situations where a believer is involved, the pressure to conform can be incredibly high, especially when the wife is the follower of Christ. In Islam, the husband’s religion takes precedence over the woman’s, as if the wife has no value as an individual.
Father, you have called the women here to be your daughters. You have called them beloved, but they have not heard it. The tradition tells them they have no value. Break through those lies to let them find your truth.
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18
A group of believers were attending an event together, despite some personal issues between them that really strained some of the relationships within the group. During the event, the authorities interrupted, arresting the group and throwing them in jail. Through the process of imprisonment, much of the distrust and disharmony were resolved, and, since this time, several people have become believers.
Becoming a Christian means that you have to surrender the idea that your performance has any bearing on your salvation. Some believers have remained trapped by the desire not to offend their traditional values by still conforming to the ways of Islam while others have sought to flaunt their freedom in Christ in immature and inappropriate ways. Relationships in the community of believers can be difficult, barred by mistrust and a judgmental spirit that stems from the legalism engrained in the Muslim culture. Deception and betrayal underlie all parts of society in this culture and creep in to the community life as well.
Lord, the world doesn’t get the change you make in their lives. The majority here still think that local believers can be bought, bullied, or beaten into submission. We ask for the strength for the community to stand up, that as they hold fast to your name, many more would be drawn to it. We ask that in all challenges and hardships, your name alone would be glorified.
“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”Revelation 12:11
Ahmed was born in the countryside but moved to the city in search of a better life. He remembers the days when his country was a colony under a European power but has watched all the changes that have come since then. The country today is hardly recognizable as the one in which he grew up. He doesn't read but can recognize and quote large portions of the Qur’an, from the repetition pounded into him as a child. As a younger man, he worked in construction; now that youth and strength have given out on him, he is relying on his kids to take care of him.
Ahmed is concerned about his family, how they will continue to survive or thrive in today's world. He hears the pull of eternity. He knows that he doesn't have long left on the earth. While he has memorized the Qur’an, he can understand little of it, due to its formal and complicated Arabic. Ahmed is dependent on the interpretations of others. The only way he will hear the good news is by the intentional witness of someone close to him, as he has no ability to comprehend the written translations of the Bible.
Lord, there are many out there just like Ahmed. They have lived their lives as best as they can with no opportunity to know the truth. We ask that you would bring the truth to them in a way they can understand.
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:14-15
A woman has lost several relatives (2 grandchildren, her mother, her brother) this past year. She is questioning what happens after one dies. This woman believes that children who die will pray for their parents to enter paradise. Those who believe they can work their way, pray their way into eternal life are mistaken. Only belief in Jesus will allow anyone to enter into heaven. There are approximately 300 people who die in North Africa
each day…who die without knowledge of Christ.
Jesus, we praise you for being our advocate, the one who speaks to God on our behalf. And the people here need that advocate. There is no one to speak for them when they die. No children, no works, nothing. So we’re asking you to step in and be that change for them. Let them believe in you and pass from death to life.
"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.—John 5:24
THINGS YOU DON”T TALK ABOUT
For years, we have prayed that it would be common knowledge that one could be a good citizen of this country and be a Christian at the same time. Recently, a newspaper article declared that anyone could choose their own religious path – Christian, Jew, and Muslim – without repercussions. Thank God along with us that it is becoming common knowledge that a citizen of this country can choose their own way. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me”.
Media handling of national believers is never unbiased; whatever information is presented to society is heavily distorted in order to enhance the Muslim point of view and sensationalize the situation of the people who have abandoned that system of belief. Yet in one report over a believer who was arrested, the media gave an accurate summary of his beliefs in the newspaper article. So even in the face of distortions, God's light can still shine brightly.
Lord, in the midst of so much noise, distortion, and lies, we ask for you to make your light shine bright to the people. Draw these people to you that they would be able to see you and believe.
“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” John 1:5