June 2019 Global Update
Carrying the gospel from open spaces to forsaken corners.
Our team of itinerant speakers are called to take the gospel to all nations and to all corners of those nations. Sometimes to the highest echelons of government, sometimes to the most forsaken corners. Last month, our team ministered to both.
At the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Ravi was joined by Abdu Murray and Vince Vitale for a profound visit to one of the world's largest maximum-security prisons. A prison that houses roughly 5,000 inmates, more than half of whom are serving life sentences.
As Jill Carattini, editor of A Slice of Infinity, wrote of the prison, “Death looms large at Angola; ninety-four percent of inmates who enter are expected to die while incarcerated. The fear of dying alone in prison, coupled with the reality that for many inmates their first encounter with death was committing murder, makes death itself a weighted subject, often locked up in anger, guilt, and dread.”
“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them”
We are reminded in the Letters to the Hebrews to, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3). For Vince, the experience conveyed a palpable sense of the Holy Spirit’s work in Angola; for Ravi, “Walking through Death Row was one of the most sobering things I have ever done. Praying with those there makes it impossible to block the tears."
As sobering as the visit was, it also served to inspire. As Ravi said afterwards, “God is big enough and creative enough and loving enough to advance the gospel through each person wherever they are. Seeing that in guys who are behind bars, perhaps for a lifetime, that message of freedom believed with such conviction by them, spurs us on.”
The Power of Prayer in Difficult Times
In complete contrast to the spiritual challenge of taking the gospel to the incarcerated, Ravi took on the challenge of taking his testimony to a largely secular audience when he appeared on Fox TV’s Fox & Friends Weekend show. In a panel discussion on the power of prayer in difficult times, Ravi took the chance to tell the audience that, “In the Christian worldview, you have prayer as communion. You are in a relationship with God and it’s a two-way street. Prayer to me is not so much changing the will of God as much as allowing God to change his will within me.”
The gospel message never changes but the varied nature of our ministry’s audience demonstrates the grace of God that allows our speakers to reach so widely. From one media giant to the next, Vince was invited to speak at Amazon headquarters on the subject of resilience. He was able to share the message of the peace of Christ and words of truth to an influential crowd at one of the world’s largest corporations; an opportunity that Vince recognised as a “deep privilege.”
God Is at Work in Latin America
From North America, our ministry moved south to Peru’s capital, Lima, where our REBOOT initiative continues to be blessed with wondrous reach. Since REBOOT (our pioneering youth apologetics training event) first launched with 300 delegates in London in 2013, it has spread across the globe. In 2019 alone, REBOOT events have taken or will soon take place in Texas, Las Vegas, Canada, Northern Ireland, Spain, and London.
A key part of REBOOT is to establish a space for teenagers where no question is off limits. This allows our speakers to get to the very heart of the issues that lie heavy on young people’s hearts, and “heavy” truly is the most appropriate word. As REBOOT has traveled the continents, the same questions keep being asked and it was no different in Peru last month.
As Michelle Tepper reported, so much of young people’s concerns are about “addiction, depression, sexuality, and God’s forgiveness.” Despite this heaviness, in fact because of this heaviness, Michelle was also clear that “God is at work in Latin America.”
Loved in Translation
God was also at work in Australia, but in a less-than-expected context. Our speakers from the Middle East, Dr. Maher Samuel and Wassim Sabry, were hosted, alongside Aussie-based Dan Paterson, by the Arabic Churches of Sydney. The three combined for an unprecedented nine days of events in June. The visit was bookended by six talks across the two weekends that were live translated into English and broadcast throughout the Arabic world.
It is a talent to translate the spoken word on to the page and UK-based speaker Dr. Sharon Dirckx has been blessed with such a gift. Last month, she appeared on stage in Oxford, where she was interviewed by RZIM Senior Vice President Amy Orr-Ewing, at the launch event for her second book, Am I Just My Brain?
Sharon was inspired to write the book: one, to lay out in concise, clear terms what the current understanding is of who we are, our ultimate sense of identity as a person; two, to point her readers towards the bigger picture that suggests answers to the fundamental questions of our existence; and, three, to challenge the sceptics idea that we are merely material beings living in a material world.
The Barbed Wire of Doubt
As well as challenging skeptics, our role as a ministry is to help sate the hunger that we discover in churches for Christians to grow and be equipped as prayerful confident disciples in their daily life. To that end, Amy Orr-Ewing, Simon Edwards, and Lara Buchanan were blessed to receive an invitation from the Bishop of Guildford to lead an apologetics training event for 450 church leaders.
The Reverend David Senior, Curate at St Paul’s Howell Hill and one of those church leaders, expressed the importance of his congregation being able to share their faith outside the walls of the church. In a phrase for the ages, he described our work as helping people “over the barbed wire of their own doubts.”
Thanks to your continued support, both financial and prayerful, and the grace of God, we are able to keep helping as many people as possible over their own barbed wires – and we will continue to do so and pray that you continue to stand alongside us in our ministry.