Global Update Vol 2 - China, Laos, Israel, Ethiopia

The situation there right now is becoming desperate and the reason for that is that the Church is experiencing increased persecution, close to the way it was back in the old days.

Joy- Welcome back to God’s Church On the Move” with Ron and Charis Pearce of Empower Ministries. We’re thrilled to have you join us as we dig deeper into this exciting ministry. I’m Joy Kita, a writer for Empower and the host of God’s Church on the Move.” Today we have the honor of hearing what God is doing in some of the hotspots around the world. With me in the studio is founder and President of Empower, Ron Pearce, and Charis Pearce, Vice President and Director of International Operations. It’s October 2018 and I know Ron that you’ve come recently from some of these countries.

Ron- Yes, actually I have just jumped off the plane you might say. Still in jetlag and ready to tell folks what is going on in some of these countries. We’re going to jump right into China first and then we’re going to go to Laos, Joy. Afterwards, I’d like to make a quick stop in Israel and then down in Ethiopia. So let’s begin in China and I will try to give the folks an overview. The situation there right now is becoming desperate and the reason for that is that the Church is experiencing increased persecution, close to the way it was back in the old days. The old days I’m referring to is the Cultural Revolution that was in the 1970s. That was a time when the communist government tries to eradicate, I mean totally wipe out, the Underground Church in China, destroying all the Bibles, throwing all sorts of Christians into prison as prisoners. I knew a lot of guys that spent 20, 22 years in prison for their faith in that period of time. And now years have gone by, about 40 years and in that period of time persecution lessened, things became easier for the House Church movement, growth took place but at the same time, they knew something was coming and it has now hit. When it really started was February 1, 2018, just a few months ago, eight months or something like that, and that is when the government passed this law to restrict the operations of Christians and churches and house churches and just religion in general. And so they came out with this new set of rules that the church had to operate under. One of those rules that came was that they couldn’t meet in groups more than 15 in a congregation because some of the congregations were 2000, there was one church in Beijing of 2000. A lot of them were in the 100 – 300 range in the cities and then you had in the countryside, you had larger gatherings. I remember being in some church meeting that were like 50 or 100 in a very, very small building. I know of one barn I was in one time, they had 300 people in there on the main floor of the barn and then up in the rafters, people were hanging out up there you might say. And so that is the situation that has been in the last 40 years, numbers have been growing, more freedom to operate. That stopped as I say, with this law and now the crackdown has taken place and they are going in with great ferocity and they are shutting these churches down. One of these leaders that I recently met with, this is of the House Church network, he told me about the fact that they are going in 100 to 200 police officers raiding a church. They will hold everyone back, all the Christians, and they will go in and strip it down from the paint in, I say. Everything is gone. So the benches are gone, the seats the sound system, the lights, the Bibles, everything is gone. After that they will bar the door and they will put steel bars on it to keep the people out and people are not allowed to go to that church anymore. This is not only a few, this is hundreds now, maybe into the thousands all across the country. I was just in one city and I was speaking at a church this last Sunday and this gentleman came up to me, he was from China, and he said, Oh, it’s not that bad Ron. I’m from there and I was just back there three months ago and it’s not that bad”, and he told me this, and this is what concerned me, he said, These people are sort of asking for it, they should be cooperating with the government because the government is not all that bad and I never saw any of this and I don’t think it’s happening the way you think. It’s an alarmist sort of thing.” I said, No, it’s happening, we have reports and everything,” but he couldn’t believe it because he was sort of saying, why don’t the Christians just cozy up with the communist government and everything will be okay. It’s not okay. This is why I am bringing this message to you today because you are going to have varying reports all over the internet now, various people like ourselves here at Empower and others are getting reports on this crackdown and the suppression of the Gospel and the major way is to eliminate these meeting places of the church, make them smaller if they do exist and just try to put fear and trepidation into the minds and hearts of the believers. So that is the one thing that they are doing, they are cutting down on the size. The other thing that they are doing is that they are confiscating Bibles. The Bible has been the core, the centerpiece of all the operations in China for years and years and years. They love the Bible, they love to memorize the Bible. The Bible is everything to these folks. So what they are doing now is they are confiscating Bibles when they do find them in homes, the government is not, I just found this out last week, the government is not selling Bibles in the country anymore. They used to be sold through the government run, Three-Self Patriotic churches. That has stopped. Not only that but they are taking down the websites and the apps that contain Bibles. They are still out there but when you go to download the Bible off one of those apps it freezes on the first page, in other words, there is no depth to it at all, you can get Genesis 1 and that is about it. So they tell all the foreigners, Oh no, look, the apps are all up there.” They are up there but they can’t be downloaded. So they are trying to crack down on the union Bible which is the traditional Bible for China, and stop its production and distribution and the reason for doing that, I should add on, is that in the next few months I believe, they are coming out with the new Chinese Communist Government Bible. That is going to be the Bible, if you can sort of picture this in your mind, taking a razor blade and cutting out all the Gospel parts, all the parts that give the Bible its power and its reality. For instance, they are going to cut out things like being born again, the blood of Christ, the power of the resurrection, miracles, the second coming of Christ, you know, little things like that. Those are the items that are going to be removed and then the Chinese government is going to reinterpret them through the sunglasses of communism to put in there what they want it to be. So they are going to rewrite the Bible and those are going to be the Bibles that are distributed at that point in time. Which means that our work of producing Bibles within China, and we can’t tell you, folks, how this is happening obviously for reasons, but we print in, shall we say, underground presses in the country all the time, in fact, Charis I think you have a number there you were mentioning.

The Bible has been the core, the centerpiece of all the operations in China for years and years and years.

Charis- In the past few weeks we’ve done 28,000 Bibles for China.

Ron- Okay, and more are coming off the line always. So they are desperate to get these. When I met with one of these leaders recently I said to him, you know we are helping with these underground Bible schools, we are helping with printing these Bibles, we are helping with the training of pastors in very quiet ways. I can’t tell you who and when and how. We’re training hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pastors in the Bible, the book of Romans, the book of Genesis, Pauline Epistles, that sort of thing. I said to him, are we doing what you need? In other words, we don’t want to do something that is not helpful to the underground church movement. He said, The most important thing is getting us the Bible because we need to take these, give them to the new believers and also now hide them, hide them securely so that nobody can find them when they do these raids.” So that is the big thing in China. He said to me to keep on doing what we have been doing, but please don’t stop the Bibles, the training and the help with the pastors to keep them going. It’s now illegal to give a pastor money for support by the congregation. You can’t tithe anymore.

Joy- But Christianity itself isn’t illegal in China.

Ron- It is, it is in the form that we believe, in the form of shall we say evangelical Christianity. Yes, it is because that is involving evangelism, putting Jesus first on the throne whereas the communist government says no, the government is first and we will tell you what you can teach in the Gospel. Therefore, their idea of Christianity is totally different than the Bible’s idea of Christianity. So that is why I am saying, officially there is freedom of religion but when you boil down what they mean by that, it’s their watered down version that is okay, where we as believers believe in much more depth. We believe in Jesus telling folks that they have to be born again. That runs afoul of the communist government.

Joy- So for the last 40 years, you’ve mentioned that they had freedom in what to believe and how to express that belief so what has changed to make this drastic difference?

Ron- The church has been growing too fast. Let’s just put it that way. I’ll give you some numbers right now that were shared with me. They estimate, and this is just an estimate, that there are probably 120 – 140 million believers in China right now and up until this point they have been growing by about 20 – 25 thousand people a day accepting the Lord. We work in China with our network with about 80 million believers in 30 of the largest house church movements in the country. So that is our way we operate within there, trying to get eyes on the situation and helping them with what they need, is to these networks that we have aligned ourselves with. And so those folks are telling us that the growth has been staggering and it’s been hard to keep up with all the new believers and the discipleship and all these things. Well the government is seeing this too and the government says the loyalty that these Christians have for Jesus, they are basically jealous of. This one leader, he has about 6.5 million, very, very good friend of mine, and I said to him, so they are really getting mad at you now, and the Christians. He says, Yeah, the reason is because Christianity has one book, we have one family and that family of God stretches all around the world and we have one Holy Spirit that holds us together and this oneness, this power that the Gospel releases within the church of Jesus Christ is something that they would try to imitate and duplicate within communism but they could never do it, there were always divisions.” And he says, They are just wondering how this operation of the church works and if they can’t duplicate it within communism they are going to crush it.” That’s what he says they are trying to do now. They have declared war on the church. Over the last 40 years, they have tried various things but this seems to be the one they are trying right now to stop the growth. One of the other things that we try to help with is on the training side of things I mentioned before and when you try to figure out how to defect all these teachers in the country it’s very, very difficult because they are spread out in all these different areas and how do you get the message out to them, how do you bring them together for training and things like that. When we got onto these topics with these leaders he said to me, The problem we’ve got today is this technology. They know exactly where we are going to meet, what we are going to do, they are watching our cell phones, they know our internet communication, our cell phone communication, our messaging, everything they are watching.” And they’ve got all these close circuit cameras all over China today. We’re not talking a few, we are talking millions of cameras and they can do facial recognition, the way you walk, everything. They can trace you, know where you’ve been, who you’ve been meeting with etcetera. So nobody can hide like the old days. Before it was sort of like, as he said, We were playing cat and mouse out there, and all the mice would gather together and then when we saw the police coming (the cats), we would scurry to all these various areas and they couldn’t catch us all, they didn’t know who we were.” Nowadays, they know exactly where everybody is going, where they are meeting, who the people are so he says it’s tough to do training. So I said, Well, how do we do this?” He said, Well, we are going to have to get creative. No longer can we do it electronically, we are going to have to go back to good old-fashioned paper and we are going to be passing around notes.” Because up to now everybody in the West has said why we don’t just put everything up on the internet and everybody will tune into it and look at that and it will stop all these problems. No, that is exactly the wrong thing. In fact, a law was just passed I think it was like two weeks ago that no longer is it legal in China to talk about religious things over the phone, over text, over emails. You cannot say we are going to meet for church at this location, or you can’t say please pray for me for this. You can’t do that anymore, that is illegal. You could lose your job, you could lose your house, probably if you are a pastor you could go to jail for talking that way. So we are talking about ways that you can’t communicate with one another, you can’t believe these things, we are going to stop this. And they now, through technology have the power to do that.

They estimate, and this is just an estimate, that there are probably 120 – 140 million believers in China right now and up until this point they have been growing by about 20 – 25 thousand people a day accepting the Lord.

Joy- So it’s a blatant attack on Christianity in China.

Ron- Oh, totally and the world is oblivious to this as a whole. And that is because we are so concerned with making money, with these trade talks, with all these other things that are in politics and all stirring around the world with Brexit and all these things. The eyes are off the religious freedom and the human rights etcetera. I was told that there was not one human rights lawyer left practicing within China today and before there were hundreds. They are all gone. They were all either in prison, maybe kicked out of the country or put out of business or something like that. There is not one right now in China and this is a big change because the world used to threaten these governments, like the Vietnams and the Chinas and these governments around the world for oppressing the church, for coming against the human religious rights of these people. Everyone is quiet right now which means that these governments are saying the police are in the police station, nobody is going to be out there stopping us to do anything, therefore, they are declaring war.

Charis- You mentioned that they can lose their homes if they’re found out. There is also increased pressure of teachers asking students if their families are Christian, employers asking outright are you a Christian, which is new also.

Ron- Totally, in fact, Charis in one of these meetings we were sitting there and I said, What hurts you the most as a leader, as a pastor.” This gentleman is in charge of millions and millions of people and he said It’s what they are doing to our children in the schools.” They will take these kids, little kids, we are talking five or six years old all the way up to 10, 11, 12, and they will interrogate them. They will put them in a room and they will yell at them and scream at them and say, Your mommy and daddy, are they Christians? Do they go to church? DO you have a Bible in your home? Are you a Christian? What happens on Sunday? Do you guys get together? Who comes to your house?” Can you imagine intimidating a little child by screaming at them? And then they say Yes, yes my mommy and my daddy we are all Christian,” and they are supposed to stand up for Jesus and they just tell the truth and, therefore, the police will go to the home and as you say, they will strip that home bare. They will take absolutely everything out of it and leave the people homeless, kick them out of their apartments, the husband, mom, dad, lost their jobs possibly, the little boy or girl can’t go to school anymore if they confess to be Christian. Same thing is true by employers as you were saying. They are going to business owners right now and making it a rule that if you are doing an application for a job you have to state on their Am I a Christian, and if that person says yes I am a Christian they can be overlooked or not granted that job. Even while they are employees they have interviews to say are you a Christian, do you go to church, do you have a Bible, all the usual questions. So now the pressure is on. What do you do? So there are a lot of families right now that are homeless, a lot of kids that can’t go to school, a lot of guys that have lost their jobs and the church is trying to take care of them and at Empower we are trying to take care of them as well because they are standing up for Jesus. And these are the best of times. The world watches this, and this was another topic that we got into at this meeting, and I said So what do the non-Christians think?” and he said the government officials that are far down, in other words the local police, the local mayors and everything like that, they don’t agree with this and they say Look at these Christians, they aren’t doing anything wrong. They are good people, good for society, they love people, they help people.” Our reputation is stellar out there in China amongst the average person and even the neighbors say, Why are we picking on Christians so much?” And so it is all coming down from the government from the top end and it’s being enforced through the police forces. So the people are sitting there saying what is it that the Christians have that the government doesn’t like? Why are they being picked upon? So more and more questions are coming towards the Christians and they are saying, what do you believe? Why is this happening? So the doors are opening for us to share our faith with the unbelievers because of the persecution. Which is standard operating procedure all around the world. When persecution comes on the church it just opens a door of opportunity for evangelism. Then the people say hey, maybe this sounds good, I’ve never thought of this before and then you can explain the Gospel to them.

Joy- I just find it so incredibly shocking that the world, as it watches, does nothing to help China. Do you see any changes that way or do you see persecution abounding?

Ron- I don’t know. We are getting so wrapped up in all these other issues that the important things of life, our souls, our spirits, eternity, the lostness of man, that sort of thing is being lost and, therefore, I don’t know what the future is going to hold. We report on what is happening right now and the trend towards it in the future but who knows where we’re going with this one.

Joy- So do you have another country to take us to?

Ron- We are going to go to Laos and the reason we are going to go to Laos is because it was stunning to me on this last trip that I was on just a few weeks ago. I went into the country and we have been helping there for quite a while, but to go into the country and to have all these pastors from southeast Asia, this country Laos, they came into Vientiane and they are all sitting around the circle and I learned a lot. I’ve been doing this for a long, long time but this one really was exciting to hear. This is a country that is filled with people that believe in house spirits or family spirits. These are people that are into witchcraft and they will worship Satan and they believe that, over top of their family for generations, has been one spirit that controls their lives and that they have to appease and honor and do sacrifices to this house spirit. It’s funny because you know how we have the Bible as Christians and we sort of go by the Bible as far as the rules as to what we should be doing and who God is as all of that sort of thing. Well, they do too, only it’s been written down over many generations as to how you take care of your house spirit. So they’ve got notebooks. It’s sort of like saying, if someone is sick, you sacrifice a water buffalo, if a person has a broken leg you put these curses on that person that did it, and then you offer this sort of sacrifice or you say these words. So they’ve got a notebook for every family as far as what you do. And I thought to myself, wow, I’ve never seen or heard this before. Then this guy comes in and he’s one of the pastors. He’s a real little workhorse, I don’t think he ever stops. He had this yellow shirt on so I call him yellow shirt and so here he comes and sits down and he is sort of the leader of the pack of these pastors. He was a witch doctor and I mean he was powerful and he was following in the footsteps of his father and his grandfather, it was a generational thing. He had so much power, so much so that he wanted to describe to me how deep he was in this. And so he talked to me about a knife and he says, I would take a knife and put it in the fire, in the coals of the fire and get it red hot so that the knife was just glowing” and then he said, I would put it between my lips and chomp down on it,” and he says, the spirits would protect me so that I wouldn’t get burned.” Honestly, you can even hear this on the tapes, I put my notepaper down, my tape recorder down, I walked over to him and said, Open your mouth, I want to look at your mouth.” So he opened his mouth and there wasn’t a scar there. There was nothing! And all the other guys that, some of them were witch doctors as well said, You know what? This is exactly what he did. He was known for this and there wasn’t a scar on him because of the protection of the evil forces on his body.” He said, I could walk up to a tree and I could put my hands on a full grown tree and in three days it would be dead.” He had that much power. And then the last one, we were sitting at lunch and he was telling me this story. He says, I would have a bond with a water buffalo, a bull water buffalo,” and he says I would have sort of a Star Trekian mind-meld with him, so much so that I would think thoughts and I would have a nonverbal communication with the water buffalo and I would tell it to charge over and kill that man over there, or destroy that house and the thing would just take off.” And he says the various witch doctors would have contests with one another, taking their water buffalos that they had this relationship with and they would see who was the strongest witch doctor when they would tell these bulls to fight. And I thought wow! This guy was really into it. So then I said, Well, how did you accept Christ?” He said one day his mother, who he was very close to became deathly ill. And his little boy, his oldest boy, also became ill as well at the same time and they were both dying. And so according to the rules of what he had to do, he took 12 water buffalo, all his water buffalo, his whole herd, basically all his wealth, and he sacrificed it to the devil and to the demons and this was supposed to the cure the mother and the little boy and they both died. He was left just broken, hopeless, and he had no answers for this at all. A Christian came over, a friend of his actually, who was a believer and he came over and shared the Gospel with him. He heard it, he believed it, and from that moment on he dedicated himself to finding God. Now this is something I have seen and heard all around the world so this is not new but for some folks that are listening this might be a bit of a shocker because we don’t deal with the demonic the way they do in other parts of the world. One night he was having a dream and in the dream, Jesus was drawing out of his mouth, this nine meter, that is 27 foot, long snake. This was in a dream. And he pulled this out and this was the demonic power that was within him, he pulled it out and destroyed it. When he woke up he said, I felt good and I felt strong” because over the years the demons and the evil that he was around had made him both sickly and weak and, therefore, when he woke up he had strength, he felt good, all the sickness was gone and therefore he said, I attribute it to the fact that God just cleansed me from within of all the demonic powers.” Then he said, I went and destroyed all the paraphernalia that our family had gathered for doing witchcraft.” He destroyed it all. But then the persecution came on because he went out immediately and he started three churches. And I’ll jump to the bottom line here. He has now started 45 churches and that is what he oversees in the network that he has started. Oh, maybe I should tell the folks this. I said to him, When you go to start these churches, these 45, how do you do that?” And he says, Oh, we have the same plan every time everywhere we go.” He says, We take a team of believers and we will go into a village that has never heard the Gospel before, and we will go in there and we will go door to door telling people about Jesus and the Gospel.” And then he says they will usually ask the question, Is your Holy Spirit stronger than our house spirit. We don’t want to let go of our house spirit if you are talking about a god that is not as powerful.” And they say, Well, let’s see who is more powerful” and they do the old Elijah thing. They say Go out and get all your sick people.” So, they bring the sick people all throughout the village together, they lay hands on them as a group, they pray for them and they are healed. And he says all the people say, Okay, your God is stronger” and, therefore, they dedicate themselves to the Lord. That is how you start a church in that part of the world. And so I said, Now, that must raise a lot of problems,” and he says, Yes, the other witch doctors, the other people are afraid that the evil spirits will take it out on them for all these defections, shall we say and, therefore, they get kicked out all the time of these villages and the villagers have to go find a new place to live if they have accepted Christ.” I think he told me he is in his third village right now because he has been kicked out so many times. When we were talking about the price tag of what it cost him to follow Jesus, he was telling me about the fact that he has been in prison numerous times for weeks on end. And this one time they put him in prison and they put him in solitary confinement and they put him in stocks. Remember in the old medieval times they would put a prisoner in this wooden contraption where their neck would go in and their arms would be in those wooden things too and something came over the top to hold their arms and their head in and they couldn’t move and everything like that? I call it the stocks, I don’t know what they call them today but he said I’ve been in that and I’ve been in solitary confinement but the worst thing is when they put us in the big room. I said I’ve never heard of this one before and he said this room that they would put the prisoners in to break them was 15 feet by 18 feet and if you do the math on this, I’ve worked it out because they put 100 men into that size room of 15 feet by 18 feet. They squished them in like sardines. It gives every one of the prisoners approximately three square feet to live in. They put them in there and it is the opposite of solitary confinement, this is you are just squished in this room and he says they only give so much food and the prisoners always fight with each other for the food. There is no washroom. The floor is the washroom. At night there is nowhere to lay down so you lay on top of everybody. He says fights are everywhere. They are always fighting with one another and he said prisoners will literally break down and beg to get out of here. They will do whatever it takes so if it means showing allegiance to the government or squealing on another prisoner or another family or whatever the government wants, they will be broken. And he says They would put me in there but they would never break me.” They would bring him a paper every single day that would say, if you renounce Christ and tell all your followers to renounce Christ we will let you out of the prison. And he says, They would restore me to being the mayor of the area, and all my power and all my possessions.” So they would bribe him and they would continue to punish him if he did not sign this paper. And he says, We wouldn’t break.” All the pastors that went in there, they never broke.

<p>man with a water buffalo in Laos</p>
I would have a nonverbal communication with the water buffalo and I would tell it to charge over and kill that man over there, or destroy that house and the thing would just take off.

Joy- And is this common in Laos, to go to prison for your faith?

Ron- Yes, I’m hearing that and it’s simply because the government does not like this emphasis on another God more powerful than the communist state or the communist government. That is what our allegiance is to Jesus. He is our Lord, he is our leader and we show allegiance to him and, therefore, they don’t like this and they are very, very concerned.

Joy- Quite similar to China.

Ron- Very similar just not as sophisticated you might say. They are more brutal in some ways than they are in China. So today that is the only one I’m going to tell you about from Laos because this is now spreading and churches are growing up everywhere. I just saw a note here as I was putting that paper down. This is one he told me too, he says We went into this village,” and he says, There was a demon-possessed man there and he was crazy.” The only word they had in the translation was crazy. When he was free he would beat people, he was just unmanageable and he would destroy people’s homes and beat their bodies and everything like that so the villagers didn’t do anything but they tied him up and they put him in these chains on his legs and his arms and they put him in this little house. They showed me a picture of it, they took a picture of this guy’s little house. It was probably about four feet wide by six feet long. It was wooden sort of floors and it had half walls on it with a little roof over the top out in the middle of nowhere. The people of the village would come and give him food to keep him alive, and water and everything like that but he was chained there just to protect the village. So when he went into that village he says, I will show you the power of God.” And he goes up and the guy is just snarling at him and everything of that nature. He walks up, he lays hands on him, and prays for him for 10 or 15 minutes. After 10 or 15 minutes, everything is fixed, the man is in perfect shape shall we say. All the demonic powers or whatever he had were all gone. They took the chains off him, he sat there, he talked normally and he says all the families came over and they said, We would like to serve this God.” Eleven families that day came to Christ and the average is eight people per family in Laos. I understand they have a lot of kids, and, therefore, if you can get an instant 88 people to turn to Christ, that was the formation of the Church in that village. This is what God is doing in a country like Laos.

Joy= Wow! And where are we off to next?

Ron- Well, I think what we are going to do is go to Israel and I’m just going to give you a little bit of background as to what is going on in the country. Traditionally, in Israel, it has been hard for churches, messianic congregations, to be established. The reason for that is that over the years since 1948 and the establishment of Israel, evangelicals, born again believers, messianic, were not liked too much and, therefore, the people were not letting them gather and there was a lot of resistance to the Gospel shall we say. Well that all started to change a few years back and right now we are seeing a new day in the messianic outreach within Israel. I was just talking to one of the leaders, in fact I’ll be with them in another couple or three days and they were saying they have never seen this many people accepting the Lord and it’s all over the place, especially in the Russian community. Now I have been told that 30 percent of all of Israel’s population is Russian speaking. These are people that have come in from the former Soviet Union, the Ukraine, the Russia, the old East Germany various countries like that that have Russian as their primary language and these people have made Aliyah or have come home and allowed back in the country. A lot of them gravitate to the Northern area, especially around Haifa where we do a lot of our work through our partners there. These folks come there and they live in very bad situations, almost like slum situations down in the lower area by the docks of Haifa. When we were in there I met with the young pastor of one of these congregations that we are helping with right now. We are helping with their rent and we help with scriptures and Bibles and various things. We also help them with appliances, and I know this seems strange but they come into the country they have nothing. The government gives them a little help for a little while, then they go and give them these little apartments, concrete, nothing in the apartment, it’s bare. There is a sink, that is about it, a kitchen cabinet, a toilet, and a shower and that’s all. They are told to make it somehow, go find a job, make your own life. Well, they have nothing. I have walked into situations where I saw kids, little kids like seven or eight years old and they didn’t have a bed, they didn’t have a blanket, they laid on the concrete floor on a piece of plastic and their blanket was a piece of plastic and that is how they lived. So what we do is we go in and we have donors and friends that want to help us with this so we take in the money and buy them beds and a table and maybe a fridge, some of the basic things that they need. Well, this is not happening with a lot of other folks and they ask, Why are you doing this?” And we talked about the fact that Yeshua, Jesus is the one that loves us and we want to show that same love to them and they say why and then we get to explain the Gospel. Well, all of a sudden this young pastor that I was interviewing he starts up this church and it’s loaded right now and they’ve got people all the time coming to the Lord, Bible studies, and I said, What is the most exciting part of the ministry?” and he said, The bus tours! The bus tours are incredible.” And he says what we do is we take one of those tourist buses that are all over Israel, we’ll get 50 – 60 people in it, all Russian background, a lot of them are Holocaust survivors from the Second World War, and I know people are listening to this saying, Are they still alive?”

Joy- That was my first thought actually.

Ron- I know, the war was a long time ago, are they still alive? And I say, yes, these were the little kids in these concentration camps, babies almost, that are very old now but they are still alive and it’s the saddest of stories about what happened in the concentration camps in Germany and other areas. These children were used for slave labor, yes, but they were also, get this, and I’ve checked this out and I asked them and it’s been verified, they were also milked for their blood. In other words, they were kept alive, had transfusions of blood taken out of them and given to various people like soldiers and things like that and I said, I thought that was illegal to take say German pure Arian blood under Hitler and mix it together with Jewish blood which was called impure.” I said, I thought that was the rule?” And they said, At the end of the war especially, all the rules were off and they just needed blood and, therefore, they would milk these children.” So they kept the children alive to use them that way. When the allies came in and opened the gates these kids were taken to various other areas of the world, in the Russian-speaking world and, eventually, they grew up and no one loved them. They got married, had children made their way back to Israel, they landed on the shores of Israel and they really find it difficult. They are not really liked there. They are allowed to come into the country because they are Jewish but they are not really appreciated because they are taking up room and they are a weight on society and taxation and all that sort of thing and, therefore, they are not loved. And so when you invite them to go on these bus tours, and they see the places, the biblical sites from both Old Testament and New Testament, these people really want to go. So these people get on the buses and they will go and see this and see that and the other thing, and they don’t know a lot of their history, their Jewish history, the Bible history at all. They are Jewish by heritage and that is about it, their faith is not strong. So when you go and you show them these things they are just in awe. Then you pull up to the sea of Galilea up in the Northern part by Capernaum and I have been there, I don’t know how many times and there is one spot there where they stop the bus and the people get out onto the shore probably right at the spot where Jesus cooked the fish for the disciples etcetera and it was just over from head office with Peter and his family over there and you get out and go down to the seashore there and the tour guide, the pastor, he would say over there, this is where they would do that and fishing here and probably over there is where they did Jesus baptism and they go through all the things. Up to this time they have talked to them about the Lord, they have given them Bibles, they have been witnessing to them and the people, sometimes, sometimes on some tours about half the bus load will say, Well, we would like to be baptized too.” And they brought their bathing suits so there is no reason why not to, so they are in the water and they will baptize half of the bus and these people want to follow Yeshua. Then at night, we take them up to Mount Carmel and there is a congregation church building there in which they will have a banquet and we throw this banquet for them. These people don’t get much food so when you put this food on a table in a banquet sort of setting they love it! Not only that, but we have string quartets playing classical music, the Brahms, Beethoven, Bach and that sort of thing and they will do this in cello and violin and that sort of thing. These folks in this part of the world love classical music but that’s not the reason we do it, because all the instrumentalists, all the performers are all messianic believers and throughout their presentation they each give their testimony as to how they came to Yeshua. Therefore, the people are getting banquet, they have seen the sights, here they are up there hearing all this music, hearing these testimonies. I said to the pastor of the whole operation that we work with, I said, What is it like for these folks because they finish their supper, they come down on the bus and go down into the slum areas,” and I said, Do they like it?” He says Ron, when they come down on that bus and they go down to their homes they don’t walk off the bus, they float off the bus,” he says these people have never tasted love like this before.” They’ve never seen people who have been born again who honestly, because they have been born again, and the Spirit of God resides within them, will love them unconditionally. And they have never heard a message of hope like this, in Yeshua. This is the sort of thing that they have just been waiting and hoping for and, therefore, yes, that is why we have such a turning to Christ right now within Israel, because we are showing them love but we are introducing them to the God of love and that is what is really turning their hearts.

Joy- This bus tour seems to be specifically designed, like catered, to the needs of the Russian immigrants. Did Empower come up with this or was it the pastors?

Ron- No, no. They came up with this over there. The pastors are given, by the Lord, techniques and opportunities and methods. They came up with it, we are just coming alongside to help them.

Joy- It’s just so unusual, isn’t it? It’s wonderful, a bus tour, a quartet, it’s just very fascinating.

Ron- God gives great creativity when it comes to talking about Him and sharing the Gospel.

Joy- It seems just what they need, that specific tour. What can Empower be doing? What do you guys need to continue this work?

Charis- Well, our most urgent needs are always Bibles. We need Bibles for China as dad spoke about, we have printings going on for Ethiopia, so that is always the centerpiece of what we do. Bibles, New Testaments, Scripture is always the foundation. We also need help with our short term church planter support. We have to be able to help these church planters go out to these villages and share the Gospel by giving them the tools. Money for food for their family, some Bibles, transportation needs, what they need to be able to get the work done. And then training, short term training for all of our workers. That is the need right now, I would say those would be the top three areas.

Ron- I would say too, Charis, that the greatest need is that there are so many people hungry to hear the message of the Gospel and you’ve got all these young pastors out there who don’t have the experience and these are the ones that just need pure Bible training. That’s what the big thing is.

Charis- Yeah, it’s not training on, you know, relationships or how to manage a church but it’s pure Bible.

Ron- Exactly, and that’s where we center.

Joy- After hearing what is going on in China I just find incredible comfort knowing that Empower is here paying attention to what is happening around the world and then of course being willing to step in with offering Bibles and Bible training. So that is absolutely fantastic and I know that I am comforted by that and our listeners definitely will be as well. And with that said, I believe we have one more country that we are going to hear some details about.

Ron- On our next God’s Church on the Move”, I’m going to start out with Ethiopia because the story there is so big we can’t cover it all today. I am only going to do maybe one or two short stories to give the flavor of what is going on. But next time we are going to do a big, big expose because this is the second largest turning to God in the world and it is happening amongst two groups. One is the 35 million Muslims who are in Ethiopia and they are really coming to the Lord in a massive way and there’s this revival that has broken out in the Orthodox Church that is about 50 million people strong. This is the church that started out a long time ago, 2000 years ago with the Ethiopian Eunuch when he took the Gospel back to Ethiopia. The church was born out of that and it grew up very, very strong and it is now having a revival shall I say and the pastors especially are leading the way. So we will talk about that next time. Right now I’m just going to tell you two stories Joy, that, recently when I was there, will give a really good idea as to how God is breaking through to the hearts of folks that were from Muslim backgrounds. This is happening throughout the country and we are not talking small numbers, we are talking hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people coming to the Lord. We just helped, over the last three or four years wasn’t it Charis? The program where we took 550 church planters and gave them I think $75 or $80 per month for support for a family of four or five?

Charis- Yes, that’s right.

Ron- And we put these national pastors into these regions where the Gospel had never been preached before to those from Muslim backgrounds. In that period of time, we were able to start 3500 churches in that region. The average church size was around 300 and so if you do the math on it, these were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people coming to the Lord through these 3500 churches. Well, that really took off in one region, then it exploded in another region, and now over in another region. So I went to one of these remote new regions and it had just been opened up. It was in the southern part of Ethiopia close to the border with Kenya and down by Somalia there. When we went down there it was so incredible, the countryside was so beautiful, a high mountainous sort of region. Then we pulled into this village and we pull up to this church and I look at this church that’s there and it’s almost picturesque. They had a beautiful wooden building there made of mud and sticks and dirt floor and everything like that. Behind it they had a little lean-to, it was right beside a river and then there was a school on the property over at the side. So when they were taking me in and showing me around they said This is the new building that we have,” and I said, But what is that out back?” And they said, This is the training area for all the new disciples, the new believers. We bring them in there for a two week intensive course on how to go out and witness to their families.” And I said, Well, that is nice and you’re right by the river for water.” Oh,” he says, that is for baptism.” He said it’s a great baptism, perfect depth and everything like that and these people come in and go down there and get baptized. And I said, That’s great but what is with the school?” And he says Well, we had a bit of a problem at one point and that was that the local authorities didn’t like the fact that we were winning so many people to follow Jesus, becoming Christians, so they decided not to let our children go to the public school.” So they got together and said, No problem, we’ll build our own.” And so they just built their own school. They didn’t go and protest and write letters to their city officials or anything, they just said okay no problem, you guys go over there and we will start our own school. And they built a school. And I thought, wow, this is talking about a positive approach to the whole thing. We went inside, I talked to all these church leaders and all these church planters that were there, we had a group of them and here they are telling me stories about going and walking miles. One man that was a former Muslim cleric and he would walk 18 miles a day spreading the Gospel and he says, I’ve left everything behind to just tell my family and friends about the Lord.” I met one lady there, a little lady, and she was in the discipleship training course. She had just become a Christian a couple of weeks earlier and here she is studying and I said, So you’re all ready to go?” and she said, Yes, I’m going to go find my family.” And the urgency of the moment was, I have to go find all my relatives in all the areas that they have moved to, all the little villages and hamlets. She was just going to go on a tour shall we say, probably for weeks on end, she’ll walk in, find the family and say I’ve got good news, I’ve found the answer.” And they are going to say over coffee in this coffee ceremony which is so famous there, Well, let’s talk about it.” And she will get to explain, so she had to understand the Gospel and that is what she was in training for. Then she would take off and go somewhere else and the pastors would follow her around to the various areas she goes and plants the seeds of the Gospel, and then the pastor, church planter would come in afterwards to give a fuller explanation as to what it was all about and start churches. And so I’m just looking at this little lady. All she does is go out there and plant seeds and tells her family, It works, it works and I have found the answer finally!” Now, that is the beginning story, here is the second story, Joy. We went to another spot and there were these six guys sitting around and they came in and we couldn’t take pictures of them. These were six former Imams, or Sheiks or heads of their Mosques, all Muslim teachers, clerics, and they all sat around talking to me. This one brother, I can’t give you his name, I can’t give you too many details for his safety sake. He’s rather famous, especially in that region, but I can tell you his story in this way. He gave me his name and then he says, I grew up in this area and when I was seven years old they put me in the Quran school and I studied and studied and studied and then for 15 years they sent me away to go to Saudi Arabia and there I became a scholar in everything that was based around Islam.” And he says, I was sent back and I was put in charge of a Mosque and I lead the teaching, I lead the worship. I had a zeal and a passion for Islam that was unparalleled.” And then he said, I wanted all the Christians to go away. I hated them.” He said all of that was continuing fine until one night he had a dream, and dreams and visions are everywhere in Ethiopia. It’s so common. In fact I asked the one big leader over the area, I said to him, Have you ever found somebody that is a key leader and turning to Jesus that has not had a dream or a vision because I am hearing it every time I am doing an interview.” And he says, I don’t think we’ve ever had one like that.” He said every single time Jesus has appeared to them somehow, to open their eyes, to open their mind, because that is the sort of thing that really breaks through all of their history, all their teaching, and everything else, is that Jesus would come to me. It’s not the love Gospel sort of like over here, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life and all those things that we tell people. He says that doesn’t mean that much over there. What means something is that their image of God as being this distant entity who is way out there, totally unapproachable, if you offend him you are in big trouble, and he’s so far away. All of a sudden you’re presenting a God who found me. Who came to me. Who opened the door, who broke through the darkness with the light of the Gospel and he talked to me. He says this just blows them away because their idea of who God is, is somebody who is unapproachable. Now you’ve got an approachable God, you’ve got Jesus himself, who is mentioned and talked about in the Quran coming to them and they are worth something. He says that is what breaks through. So here he is, I digress, here he is and he says, I have this dream and in the dream Jesus appears to me, I’m in the light and there is darkness all around me, there is a booming voice and he says follow me. Find my book and follow my book. And he said there were clues in the Quran as to who I am but if you want to find the message, open a Bible, and find a Bible.” When he woke up he went to the Quran and found those verses that were pointed out to him but he just sort of scoffed at it and thought I must have had bad pizza last night or something, bad dream, and he pushed it away. The next night he had the similar dream but with more explanation and it talked about the fact that he was heading in the wrong direction and leading people in the wrong direction. He said that one started to cut though. The third night he had another dream and in that dream he was totally overwhelmed by the fact that God said you are heading to judgement, you are heading into the darkness. He was filled with fear. He woke up from that and he said, All of a sudden I knew that this was real,” and he says then I was panicking.” Then he said I found this brother who was a former cleric as well in the capital city of Addis, they sent him to me and he pointed out all the same verses, he showed me in the Bible all the answers” and he says I accepted Christ.” And he said, When I lifted my hands to accept Him, all my fear and the heavy load of stone disappeared and I had a new peace within.” I’m quoting his exact words there because I’ve got them written down here. And he says, From that moment on I was totally committed to the Gospel” but from then on the persecution began. He lost his family, his in-laws, Muslim background, came and took his wife and his kids. He says, I have been beaten I don’t know how many times” and he showed me a lot of the scars. His buddy right next to him who is also a Muslim cleric in another Mosque, he said Tell him about the times you’ve been stabbed,” and there were stab marks all over him from where he had been stabbed on numerous occasions. So he says, Nothing is going to stop me from taking the Gospel to my people.” You see Joy, over there, when they come to the realization of the truth, and when they come to see darkness and sin and the problems, they have to, there is such an urgency, a desperation to reach all their flock shall I say, all their family, all their relatives, all their friends, everyone like that, that this is an insatiable hunger to find more of God and take their knowledge of God to all their friends and family. I am overwhelmed by the work of the Holy Spirit within these people. They’re not fancy, you would never see, if you looked at them, something that is so attractive. But people all around want them to come and tell their story and they will go miles and miles and miles. This one brother, he still teaches in the Mosque and I said, How do you do that? You don’t use the Quran?” and he says, Oh no, the Quran left a long time ago. We pull out the Bibles and I show them in the Gospels where everything is like this and they have questions and we discuss it, when we have church they will lift up holy hands to the Lord, we will make up new songs, these are hymns.” I said, Man, this is incredible!” and I said, these people are still coming?” and he said, They want to know the answers to life.” I guess I’m going to wrap up this whole time we’ve been talking like this by telling folks this one thing. This is the message from all over the world that we are getting whether it’s in China, Laos, Vietnam, India, Ethiopia, Israel, all these areas of the world, all of a sudden people are hungry. They are spiritually hungry. Physical hunger comes and goes but what we’re seeing is a spiritual hunger that will not go away and these people are looking everywhere. When the evangelist or the pastor or the family member, the friend or whoever it is comes and says, I have found it!” they just gather round and then it’s a matter of the Holy Spirit working with that individual or that family, taking them the truth. And so I’m going to tell all my friends that are listening to this and just giving you this one word; this is the day that we have been waiting for in missions. This is the day that we’ve been praying for, for years and years and years. This why the missionaries for over 250 years have gone out and given their blood, their sweat and their tears, was to plant the seeds of the Gospel in all these countries so that one day the harvest would come in. And the harvest is today. That is why, as Charis pointed out, we need the Bibles, we need the pastoral training, the support, we need the underground Bible schools in China, we need the help for these friends because we can make a difference around the world right now. Our world is falling apart Joy, it’s really falling apart in so many ways. Not only politically but with technology and invasion of privacy and the weapons of mass destruction; all this stuff that’s out there. At the same time that all these things are taking our world into the most dangerous place of all, this is the time when the Holy Spirit is breaking forth like we’ve never even dreamt of. And this is what missions is all about and this is why I get excited!

Joy- And your excitement is contagious so thank you very much. You have been listening to God’s Church on the Move” and like Ron said, next time we are going to get deeper in with Ethiopia and hear more exciting stories. I’m Joy Kita, host of God’s Church on the Move.”

I have walked into situations where I saw kids, little kids like seven or eight years old and they didn’t have a bed, they didn’t have a blanket, they laid on the concrete floor on a piece of plastic and their blanket was a piece of plastic and that is how they lived.

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