Carl Update 060210

Hi Everyone,

As you read the article below, it clearly becomes evident that while we use technology to augment our ministry in foreign missions, that it can also be used as a tool in the hands of our enemies.

I believe that while we are far from perfect, the Lord continues to show us how to remain transparent in our ministry but to also have the wisdom to not open the ministries to exploitation by our adversary.

The photos of baptisms listed below are very typical in many developing countries.  I am not sure why.  Is it a way for the national churches to try to prove that they are growing and using our western church dollars effectively?

Are we as missionaries, imposing this mandate on hidden fellowships as a form of accountability?  I am just not sure.  I remember being sent on a “mission” to a south east Asian country for my missions director after just getting started in the ministry to pick up a package for him.

Making a story brief, the police (or someone) followed me and was always sitting in the hotel lobby as I came and went in a busy city.  I was taken to a junkyard and boarded onto a dilapidated river boat full of nationals kidding under piles of palm branches and as we traveled up the waterway, out came a package of photos of the pastor baptizing people in a plastic barrel in a factory.  There were about one hundred photos and now, I do wonder why I was sent to pick these up on the other side of the world.

When I was baptized, I understood this to be my public profession of obedience to my savior, and not in any way as evidence that some pastor was counting my salvation in the records of the ministry.  It was between me and God, right?

That pack of photos is still a mystery to me and I have a lot of what if’s, like, “what if I had been arrested and those photos discovered?”  Would those Believers have suffered additional persecution due to our need for proof?  I just don’t know and wonder.  Thank goodness that the world around me is spinning fast these days and I won’t dwell on this long as I prepare for a short notice trip to Mustang next week.  Please pray for traveling mercies and someone to carry my bags.  I still have a ten pound carry limit!

~Carl for Arise Medical Missions (US)

Afghanistan Suspends Two Aid Groups

By ROD NORDLAND and ABDUL WAHEED WAFA

Published: May 31, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan government suspended the operations of two church-based relief groups on Monday over suspicions that they were involved in converting Afghans to Christianity, even though the evidence against them apparently consisted of nothing more than a listing in a telephone directory.

An Afghan television station, Noorin TV, broadcast photographs that it claimed showed Westerners’ baptizing Afghans, both men and women, and other Afghans’ praying to Jesus at private prayer meetings. It mentioned the two groups in the same report, although it had no evidence tying them to such activities, officials at Noorin TV confirmed.

Converting to any religion from Islam is a crime in Afghanistan, and proselytizing is also outlawed.

The suspended groups, Church World Service, an American organization, and Norwegian Church Aid, say they do not proselytize.

Both groups have major operations in Afghanistan, disbursing millions of dollars in aid. Church World Service employs 190 people, and Norwegian Church Aid 50 people in a variety of development programs here, the government said.

Students at Kabul University staged a protest on Monday in response to the television report, briefly blocking streets around the campus.

Mohammed Sediq Amarkhiel, a spokesman for the Ministry of Economy, which regulates aid groups working here, said there was no actual evidence against the two groups, which were known for “doing a good job here.” However, Mr. Amarkhiel added, the ministry decided on the suspensions because the television reports “raised suspicions” and “made people very emotional and angry.” The government will investigate the groups’ activities, he said.

“If they are really involved in proselytizing Afghan people for Christianity, then definitely these people will be introduced to the judicial authorities,” Mr. Amarkhiel said.

Evangelizing is a delicate issue in Afghanistan, a conservative Islamic country where there are no known native Christians and no formal churches, although some foreign embassies hold services within their own compounds. But many foreign nongovernmental organizations and aid groups here are supported by Christian groups abroad.

Foreign aid groups have to make a “commitment that their activity will be based on the Constitution of Afghanistan,” which forbids conversion from Islam, Mr. Amarkhiel said.

The television reports were shown last Thursday and Friday on Noorin TV, a small station in Kabul known as an antigovernment gadfly. Even the station’s director, Muhammed Arif Noori, however, said Noorin TV had no evidence that the two aid groups had been involved in proselytizing. The report merely raised “suspicions” about the two groups after finding them in a local telephone directory of nongovernmental organizations and noticing that they each had the word “church” in their names, Mr. Noori explained in an interview.

The television reports showed photographs that were alleged to be of Christian baptisms as well as videotapes of Christian prayer meetings, held at what the station said were seven missionary safe houses in western Kabul. The baptisms, presided over by at least four Western men, were done by dunking Afghan men completely in full bathtubs and pouring buckets of water over the heads of Afghan women as they stood in empty bathtubs.

Atle Sommerfeldt, Norwegian Church Aid’s general secretary, said “the N.C.A. is not engaged in missionary work anywhere in the world, and not in Afghanistan.”

Mr. Sommerfeldt said most of the group’s development work, concentrating on rural and agricultural development in four central and southern provinces, continued as usual because most of it was carried out by local Afghan partners who were not affected by the suspension.

“In Afghanistan, as elsewhere in the world, N.C.A. does not have a mandate to influence people to change religion,” he said. “We hope and believe in a speedy and positive solution.”

The group has an $8 million budget for Afghan projects this year, according to Liv Snesrud, its Afghanistan program coordinator.

Maurice A. Bloem, deputy director of programs for Church World Service, said in a statement that proselytizing was against his organization’s code of conduct, The Associated Press reported.

Last year, Al Jazeera broadcast a report showing evangelical Christian soldiers at an American base who were apparently discussing trying to convert Afghans to Christianity by distributing Bibles in Pashto and Dari, the country’s two main languages.

The United States military responded that such activity was forbidden by military rules, and confiscated and destroyed the Bibles.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 31, 2010

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly referenced the Church World Service’s budget and Afghanistan program coordinator.

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