Reminder: What does GOD say about refugees?

Quoting from the Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 10, verses 16 to 19: “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”

You might be tempted to reply that this only applied to the Israelites, as it was spoken to them by God, through Moses, but may I remind you that God, as revealed in the Scriptures and through Jesus Christ “…is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) and “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)

 

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Brief overview of present – day Greece

Greece’s Economic & Political Climate:

The (Greek) economy has shrunk by a quarter in five years, and unemployment is about 25 percent.

The (EU) bailout money mainly goes toward paying off Greece’s international loans, rather than making its way into the economy. And the government still has a staggering debt load that it cannot begin to pay down unless a recovery takes hold.

The government will now need to continue putting in place deep economic overhauls required by the bailout deal Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras brokered in August (2015), as well as the unwinding of capital controls introduced after political upheaval prompted a run on Greek banks.

Greece’s relations with Europe are in a fragile state, and several of its leaders are showing impatience, unlikely to tolerate the foot-dragging of past administrations. Under the terms of the bailout, Greece must continue to pass deep-reaching overhauls, many of them measures that were supposed to have been passed years ago.

The New York Times, June 2016

 

The situation in Greece is extremely volatile! The economic crisis of the last several years is getting worse and worse without any real end in sight. Unemployment is on the rise and affecting every working age group. Incomes are decreasing; the cost of living is continuing to rise, as are taxes. All of this has created a situation that has left families devastated and unable to provide for themselves. Hope is diminishing day by day and people are continuing to respond thru protests and rioting!

The Gonzalez Gazette, Frank & Suzie Gonzalez, Athens

 

 Over the last 6 years, Greece has suffered an unprecedented exodus of young professionals, igniting the potential for a massive brain drain in the years to come. This phenomenon is due to high levels of unemployment among people under 25 years of age. Youth unemployment is now at 52%, down from 63% in 2013. High levels of youth emigration, coupled with unsustainable low levels of repopulation, could result in massive instability for future generations.

A recent study by the City of Athens Homeless Shelter (KYADA) found that 71% of all homeless population in the capital have been on the streets for 5 years or less. Of these, the great majority are Greek men aged 35-55. The latest figures reveal the destructive toll the economic crisis has taken on local individuals and families.

Pray for Greece Ministry

 

Greece’s (Muslim) Refugee Situation:  Greece is at the gateway of the Middle-East. There are some who have called it the doorstep of the 10/40 window. Due to its location and vast coastline, Greece has seen an unprecedented influx of clandestine Muslim immigrants from Africa, Central Asia and the Middle-East. These men, women and children have come here searching for a better life but have been met with great disappointment. As is typical in many situations like these; the situation has grown increasingly challenging for these refugees as they’ve been caught in the bureaucratic maze of the asylum process and face a significant degree of animosity toward them from the Greek people. However it has been amazing to see growing numbers of Greek believers and many local Protestant churches step in to help and represent the love of Christ to these suffering people.

The Gonzalez Gazette, Frank & Suzie Gonzalez, Athens

Insert: https://youtu.be/_PToQuxvZgM  (Al Jazeera’s report on Syrian refugees in Europe, Oct. 2015)

 

Greece’s Spiritual Climate:

Although Greece was the first nation in Europe to receive the gospel (Acts 16-18) it has become one of the most unreached countries in the world. Out of a population of 11 million, there are less than .02% who are born-again disciples of Jesus Christ. By law it is technically illegal to “proselytize” or share the gospel with non-believers. In Athens alone, the city we minister in, there are nearly 6 million people, but only about 50 evangelical/protestant churches.

The Gonzalez Gazette, Frank & Suzie Gonzalez, Athens

 

Despite the fact that the European Union constitutionally guarantees the freedom of worship and religion, only a few historic mainline protestant and episcopal churches operate with a valid church license in Greece today. Non-Orthodox Christian churches face many roadblocks in order to legally exist. This situation also affects missionaries and other religious workers who face tremendous opposition when requesting visas. Prayer can be an effective tool in policy changing.

Church planting and growth in Greece has remained largely stagnant over the last 50 years. Optimistically, it is estimated that the average church attendance is between 15-30 people. The situation became exacerbated since the economic crisis began, which weakened many local communities and forced others to close their doors. However, it is also encouraging to see a fresh push for new church planting in Greece today.

Pray for Greece Ministry

 

Opportunities for the gospel: As hard as this climate is getting, it is our prayer that God would use it to create opportunities for the gospel and to open people’s hearts to Jesus. God has been doing a incredible work among the refugee population, especially those from Iran and Afghanistan. Many of them have had visions of Christ who appeared to them personally and told them about Himself. Many others have responded to the gospel and embraced Christ as their Savior. Please pray for these open doors to increase!

The Need for Workers & Churches: In light of all that is happening we ask you to pray that God would send laborers out into His harvest field. We also ask you to pray that God would establish healthy churches where those being saved in this nation, regardless of their origins, will find a spiritual home. Finally we ask that you pray for God to strengthen the churches that are already here, give wisdom, vision and grace to the pastors and leaders, and that He would stir up the believers to reach out to the nation around them and to the foreigners being brought to their shores.

The Gonzalez Gazette, Frank & Suzie Gonzalez, Athens

 

 

Prayer for Greece

(Compiled from prayer requests by previously mentioned Christian ministries,

including Prayercast, a Ministry by OneWay)

 

Economy/Political Situation

 *Pray for economic stability and patience throughout the country and God’s peace to overcome anger.

*Pray for the political leaders of Greece: President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipris.

*Pray for the financial meltdown to drive people to Jesus for lasting peace and security

*Pray for job creation and innovation in this time of crisis.

 

Spiritual Situation

*Pray for the Church to be purged of any heresy, syncretism, or division.

*Pray for the right of non-Orthodox Christian institutions to exist and work freely.

*Pray for the future of independent churches in Greece.

*Pray for breakthroughs in non-Orthodox/Orthodox relations.

*Pray for existing churches to be strengthened through this time of crises.

*Pray for local churches and workers throughout Greece.

*Pray for new leaders to arise (and for those requiring entry visas to be given such quickly – added by Pia).

*Pray for young people in Greece.

*Pray for a revival among young believers, building a strong church for many years to come.

*Pray for a clear presentation of the Gospel to reach a nation where very few have heard the Truth.

*Pray for believers to be provided for as they trust God in ministry.

*Pray for Operation Joshua; a collaborative effort led by Hellenic Ministries aiming to sow God’s Word into every home in Greece:

*Pray that God’s Word will take root throughout the land.

*Pray for lasting fruit that leads to further evangelism and discipleship.

*Pray for staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to facilitate this massive effort.

P.S. (added 18.8.16: sent following proclamation to claim, to our intercessors: Ezekiel 37:4-5 Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’5“Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.…).

The Upcoming Australian Election (can be applied to any election; anywhere!) – My thoughts

Let’s be those who prayerfully consider the present needs of our precious country of Australia and make the effort to carefully consider the responsibility before us to appoint worthy representatives in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Are they representing our struggling and often forgotten farmers, those most vulnerable in our society such as old people, the unborn and children, mothers and children fleeing from abusive partners, the mentally ill, those in the grip of addiction, refugees and their children, left without hope and ill treated, the sale of our land and houses for mere profit, to those who don’t care for our country or its people and are robbing young couples of what used to be and still should be the great Australian dream? I am sure, you can think of other, presently neglected but vital issues which need to be revived and protected.

The time is now to take responsibility; next week it will be too late!

I wanted to watch a movie last night; instead I felt compelled to do my homework and to plow through the confusing array of choices. Prayer helps in this process!

Ultimately it comes back to one issue: “Hallowed be your Name. Your will be done on earth (as it is in heaven)!” Amen.

God’s promises to refugees in Psalm 107

The Israelites, thousands of years ago, found themselves to be wandering in the wilderness, cut off from their previous lives, with only God’s help as their hope and God appointed leaders to help them.

Today, there are still millions of people in the same situation, many have never heard of the God who deeply cares for their plight. As in the psalm below, they need a revelation of the One True God, Yahweh; now revealed through Jesus Christ, the Saviour. This is one of the most important prayers to pray, on their behalf.

refugee camp

Psalm 107

1Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
2Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
3those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.
4Some wandered in desert wastelands,
finding no way to a city where they could settle.
5They were hungry and thirsty,
and their lives ebbed away.
6Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
7He led them by a straight way
to a city where they could settle.
8Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
9for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.
10Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness,
prisoners suffering in iron chains,
11because they rebelled against God’s commands
and despised the plans of the Most High.
12So he subjected them to bitter labor;
they stumbled, and there was no one to help.
13Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
14He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,
and broke away their chains.
15Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
16for he breaks down gates of bronze
and cuts through bars of iron.
17Some became fools through their rebellious ways
and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
18They loathed all food
and drew near the gates of death.
19Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
20He sent out his word and healed them;
he rescued them from the grave.
21Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
22Let them sacrifice thank offerings
and tell of his works with songs of joy.
23Some went out on the sea in ships;
they were merchants on the mighty waters.
24They saw the works of the Lord,
his wonderful deeds in the deep.
25For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
that lifted high the waves.
26They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
27They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
they were at their wits’ end.
28Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
29He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
30They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
31Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
32Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
and praise him in the council of the elders.
33He turned rivers into a desert,
flowing springs into thirsty ground,
34and fruitful land into a salt waste,
because of the wickedness of those who lived there.
35He turned the desert into pools of water
and the parched ground into flowing springs;
36there he brought the hungry to live,
and they founded a city where they could settle.
37They sowed fields and planted vineyards
that yielded a fruitful harvest;
38he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased,
and he did not let their herds diminish.
39Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled
by oppression, calamity and sorrow;
40he who pours contempt on nobles
made them wander in a trackless waste.
41But he lifted the needy out of their affliction
and increased their families like flocks.
42The upright see and rejoice,
but all the wicked shut their mouths.
43Let the one who is wise heed these things
and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.

Easter greetings and some thoughts on human slavery

Dear friends and fellow pray-ers!

Like some of you; this morning I awoke to a Facebook security message asking me to reply whether I was safe, in view of an explosion which took place just recently. It turned out to be a world-wide error by Facebook, in response to an explosion which just took place in Pakistan (I googled it to find out). It nevertheless touched a nerve in me; in view of all the recent unsettling events world-wide. It could well have occurred on our soil, and there have been and continue to be attempts here to orchestrate just such a terror event as we have seen recently in Brussels and Paris.

When criminals consider their heinous crimes to be holy acts of a holy war and pleasing to their god, then we are facing a new and infinitely worse level of evil. As Christians we shouldn’t be surprised what the evil one is capable of, especially as his time on earth is reaching its final stage (Revelation 20:10).

One of the worst forms of evil which, unlike the sudden death caused by of a terror related explosion, or its wounding or lasting maiming effects, is the entrapment and daily abuse of other human beings through slavery. As we have seen before; it often touches the people group we are and have been praying for: refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP’s).

What should our response as intercessors be to such overwhelming evil? I can think of no better one than the one recommended by our Lord Himself: The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)! In it is contained what our response should be. I believe that not only does it evoke the best answer from God to a seemingly ever increasing form of evil but keeps us in a place of calm and peace. For it keeps our eyes on Him, who is our wisdom, our safety and our peace (Is. 26:3-4; Thess. 3:16; 1 Cor. 1:30; Ps 46:1-3).

We just celebrated Easter and I realise that Jesus Himself lived that prayer to perfection; He lived “hallowing” or highly honouring the name of the Father, submitting to and serving His will, ushering in God’s Kingdom (as its King and Humble Servant), giving the hungry bread and much more, He Himself delivering us from evil through His death and resurrection and, tortured, mocked and in His dying breath; asking for forgiveness for His tormentors and murderers “because they knew not what they did”.

The depth of Christ’s life and words are infinitely worthwhile to read about and to meditate upon. They continuously have the effect of transforming us and bringing us His life, through faith.

Enjoy this final day of this year’s Easter break!

P.S.

Below some info and stats on the worldwide situation regarding slavery:

Contemporary slavery, also known as modern slavery, refers to the institution of slavery that continue to exist in the present day. Estimates of the number of slaves today range from around 21 million to 29 million. Modern slavery is a multibillion-dollar industry with estimates of up to $35 billion generated annually.

The Global Slavery Index 2013 states that 10 nations account for 76 percent of the world’s enslaved. India has the most slaves of any country, at 14 million (over 1% of the population). China has the second-largest number with 2.9 million slaves, followed by Pakistan with 2.1 million, Nigeria with 701,000, Ethiopia with 651,000, Russia with 516,000, Thailand with 473,000, Congo with 462,000, Myanmar with 384,000, and Bangladesh with 343,000.

An estimated 22% of slaves to date are active in the sex industry.

Children comprise about 26% of the slaves today. Most are domestic workers or work in cocoa, cotton or fishing industries. Many are trafficked and sexually exploited. In war-torn countries, children have been kidnapped and sold to political parties to be used as child soldiers. Forced child labor is the dominant form of slavery in Haiti.

Mainly driven by the culture in certain regions, early or forced marriage is a form of slavery that affects millions of women and girls all over the world. When families cannot support their children, the daughters are often married off to the males of wealthier, more powerful families. These men are often significantly older than the girls. The females are forced into lives whose main purpose is to serve their husbands. This oftentimes fosters an environment for physical, verbal and sexual abuse.

Islamist

In 2003 Shaykh Saleh Al-Fawzan, a member at that time of the Senior Council of Clerics, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, issued a fatwa stating “Slavery is a part of Islam. Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam,” and that anyone who says otherwise “is an infidel.”

Two Islamist groups, Boko Haram and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, have supported the practice of slavery. In 2014, both groups were reported to have kidnapped large numbers of girls and younger women. According to an August 2015 story in The New York Times, in territory of the Islamic State, “the trade in Yazidi women and girls has created a persistent infrastructure, with a network of warehouses where the victims are held, viewing rooms where they are inspected and marketed, and a dedicated fleet of buses used to transport them.”

Quotations taken from Wikipedia website

 

NAURU DETENTION FOR CHILDREN UNACCEPTABLE SAY ANGLICAN CHURCH BISHOPS

Melbourne’s Anglican bishops have again urged the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, to change the narrative on children in detention despite the High Court decision that there is no legal impediment to returning more than 250 asylum seekers to Nauru. In a published statement The Bishops claim “The fact that a legal determination has been made does not require the Government to act to return women and children to off-shore detention. No reasonable Australian wants to encourage people smugglers in any way, but it is simply morally unacceptable to leave children to languish in appalling conditions in off-shore detention centres. If the nation can agree on these two principles, surely it is not beyond us to find a solution.”

The Bishops statement went on, “The Anglican Church in Melbourne will continue to support asylum seekers and refugees with services and advocacy and spiritual help. The Church and its welfare agencies have long had considerable involvement in resettling refugees and helping them build a life in Australia. We applaud the motives of those Christian churches who intend to test the ancient common law notion of sanctuary, but our churches are not equipped to provide temporary accommodation. A better answer would be for Mr Turnbull to exercise compassion and moral principle and allow the asylum seekers to remain in Australia as the processes unfold.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, says Anglicans along with other Christians in Sydney are concerned by the prospect of 91 asylum seeker children being returned to Nauru following the High Court ruling, a situation which he said ‘should concern every Australian’. Australia is currently detaining around 80 children, at Wickham Point, and about 70 children on Nauru. The High Court’s ruling means that dozens of asylum-seeker families, including babies born in Australia, could be deported to Nauru. Dr Davies says the Human Rights Commission Report (2014) and the contemporary testimony of paediatricians indicate that the overwhelming majority of children suffer considerable trauma during detention. “There is no safe level of exposure when it concerns children in detention” Dr Davies said.

Dr Davies said he was mindful of the difficult decisions that the Immigration Department, under various governments, has had to make. “It is my sincere hope that the Immigration Minister and his Department can find a way to keep these children in Australia” the Archbishop said. “The Anglican Church in the Diocese of Sydney stands ready to offer help and facilities in whatever way we can.”

Source: Press Release from Anglican Church in Australia

Published in the Australian Prayer Network, 10 February 2016

Considerations and prayers at Christmas

Dear praying friends,

I would like to wish you all a peace-filled Christmas and New Year, as well as renewed vigour in 2016 for the ongoing tasks ahead, which the Lord is challenging us to continue in or to take up new challenges. May we have His wisdom to discern!

Would you pray with me for the many Christian refugees world-wide at Christmas, who feel heavy-laden and heart-broken because they have lost everything that has been dear to them; their homes, their countries, their families, their comforts. May they somehow know that we haven’t forgotten them! We are so blessed here in Australia to enjoy those things, or at least most of those things! Let’s never take them for granted!

Let’s also pray for those churches and organisations who go out of their way to bring joy into the lives of many; that they would have the funds and willing helpers to do so and that they would not neglect prayer in what they are doing.

Ultimately, we are all in need of a touch from God at this time, as it brings many challenges.

In love,

Pia Horan