Monday, July 30, 2012

Update: Missionary Kidnapped by Terrorists Has Been Released

Good news: the India missionary I wrote about earlier who has been kidnapped by armed terrorists has been released unharmed and without the need to pay a high ransom. The following is from the Gospel for Asia website:

Thank God—your prayers are answered! On Sunday, July 29, our missionary Ponnachan George was released unharmed by the terrorist group that had kidnapped him almost a week earlier in Assam, India.

All around the world, the people of God prayed, and just as in Acts 12, we have experienced His mercy.

I talked to Pastor Ponnachan a few hours ago. He simply wept for a long time, unable to say much. He thanked God and the Body of Christ for the massive fasting and prayer that took place on his behalf.

After kidnapping him at gunpoint, the terrorists blindfolded him and tied his hands behind his back. They forced him to walk for hours deep into the forest to their hideout. Throughout Ponnachan's entire ordeal, his captors repeatedly told him they were going to shoot him and would not spare him. He could hear them discuss their next moves and plans for demanding money, but he remained calm. We may be able to share more details later about the week-long, near-death experience he went through. But right now, we thank God for answering our prayers and causing these terrorists to release him unharmed without the huge ransom they demanded. Toward the end of our conversation, I asked him what went through his mind during this horrible experience.
"These people are known for shooting and killing in cold blood for their cause," he responded. "I was frightened and really thought I would never be freed. I thought about my wife and young children and felt helpless. That is when I began to meditate on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I reminded myself that my leader sent me out with a one-way ticket to this mission field. The passage in Acts 20 where Paul says 'I don't regard my life dear to myself' became a source of strength."

The entire local police force, army personnel and high-level officials, both from the state and federal governments, helped us immensely. Without their intervention, Pastor Ponnachan's freedom would not have been possible. We thank God for these officials who have been so helpful in securing the release of our brother.

But ultimately we must give praise and glory to our Lord. I cannot explain to you just what a miracle this is. These people simply do not release their victims alive. It is only through your prayers and God's faithfulness that this precious brother was returned to us unharmed.

Gospel for Asia and Believers Church are widely known in India and the surrounding nations for the ministry and hundreds of community development projects we do among the needy. In all we do, we seek to enrich lives and reach out to men, women and children with the love of God that is abundantly available for all.

Once again, I thank you for joining with God's family around the world as we prayed for the release of our dear brother Ponnachan. How we give thanks to our faithful, loving and powerful God!

Your brother in Christ,
K.P. Yohannan
Founder & President

Believers Against Abuse and Neglect of Kids (BAANK)

The church I'm part of started an organization called Believers Against Abuse and Neglect of Kids (BAANK) in response to Carlie Brucia's death. Although I didn't have access to a television in 2004, I understand that the 11-year-old whose abduction at Evie's Car Wash was caught on security camera became international news, and that most people have heard of the case. Unfortunately—and as hard as it is to write this—her body was found in a wooded area on our church property a few days after her disappearance.

Members of my church immediately showered love on those shocked and angered by her death, planting a memorial garden that is there today and continues to be visited by friends, family, and members of the community. They started hosting an annual Safety Rally highlighting child safety issues. Finally—gradually—BAANK was born. I've recently had the opportunity to not only be a part of this wonderful church (and it is a wonderful church), but to also serve in BAANK, mostly writing for the blog and email newsletter and keeping things organized.

BAANK does a number of things in the 12th Circuit of Florida (Sarasota, DeSoto and Manatee counties). We try to network with other faith-based organizations so we can all work more effectively, we partner with DCF (the Florida Department of Children and Families), and we offer court-approved, faith-based parenting classes. We also started something called Operation Relaxation—respite care once a month for foster families at various locations, including our church's facility.

If you're interested in knowing more about BAANK, visit our website, our blog, or sign up for our email newsletter to get updates on ways you can help in the community. You can also like us on Facebook. Although I'm sure many of you don't live in the area, there are still interesting tidbits (I hope) that I can offer in continuing my blog addiction (one is never enough!)

Those of you who know my story can probably understand why something like BAANK is important to me. So follow my other blog, why dontcha?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

India Missionary Kidnapped by Terrorists

The mission organization Gospel for Asia has communicated an urgent prayer request to the brothers and sisters in the church. One of their senior missionaries was kidnapped by terrorists in India on Monday. Read the statement:

Dear [Brother or Sister],

One of our senior leaders has been abducted by a terrorist group, and they are demanding a very high ransom for his release.

On July 23, at 7 p.m., a group of five armed terrorists kidnapped Pastor Ponnachan George from our Bible school campus in the Karbi Anglong district of Assam, India. They have taken him away to their forest hideout, and we are unaware of his location. This group is threatening to kill Pastor Ponnachan unless we give them a large sum of money.

We have faced similar situations before, but not to this extreme with such a high ransom demand. We have a policy never to negotiate with terrorists for money, because once you do, it opens a door for hundreds of such events. In the past, through prayer and fasting, we have always seen God bring release.

It is a policy of our mission to keep a low profile for the sake of each individual's safety while working toward their release. This time, however, Pastor Ponnachan's story has reached the Indian press, and this may further endanger his life. Therefore, please pray urgently for God's intervention.

We have been working with the local officials as well as the central government, and we are grateful for their helpfulness in this situation. I have also sent a special communication about this incident to the Prime Minister of India, asking him to intervene and do everything he can.

But I am reminded in the midst of this critical time that the most important thing we can do is to PRAY. As we see in Acts 12, when the Apostle Peter was imprisoned, God's people prayed, and God answered. Will you please join us in prayer for the release of our beloved Pastor Ponnachan? Please also pray for his wife and their two teenage children, who are waiting and entreating the Lord for his safe return.

Pastor Ponnachan oversees the ministry in this region of India, which includes 26 Bridge of Hope centers, three radio broadcasts (Karbi, Assamese and Kuki), a Bible college, more than 200 well-established churches and about 300 missionaries. Pray for the safety and strengthening of more than a dozen leaders who are overseeing the work with him.

Thank you so much for joining us in prayer for our brother Ponnachan's release. I am so grateful I can share this with you, and that together we serve a God whose faithfulness is never-ending.

Your brother in Christ, 

K.P. Yohannan Founder & President

Please pray fervently for this brother.

h/t Rod Myers, who blogs over at Casual to Captive.

In Weird History: Thai Prime Minister Ousted in 2008 for Hosting Cooking Show

Samak Sundaravej, leader of the People's Power Party in Thailand, came to power in 2008 through an election in the wake of a bloodless coup in 2006 in which the military overthrew Thaksin Shinawatra, leader of the Thai Rak Thai Party. The Thai Rak Thai Party dissolved and became the People's Power Party, which came back into power in 2007 despite military allegations against it of corrupted elections.

Samak Sundaravej was Prime Minister for less than a year because he hosted a cooking show. Under Thailand's constitution, a public minister cannot hold private employment. However, Sundaravej claimed that although he hosted the show for 7 years, he consulted a lawyer about whether an honorary (unpaid except for expenses) position with the television station would have been lawful while he was in office and became convinced that there wouldn't be any problems. Although it wasn't a legal problem, an angry mob still assembled and pressured him to leave.

Very rarely will my nerddom for politics and my love of Thai food be found together in one place. I may not have voted for him, but I would have definitely eaten his food!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Garden of Gethsemane and the Problem of Hell

When I was about seventeen, a Christian minister sat me down and challenged me to ponder the answer to this question: "Why would a loving God send people to hell?" I'm still not sure why he did that. The question doesn't have an answer outside of the supremacy of God, which was my answer at the time just as it is now. My answer hasn't changed, but I did as I promised, and I pondered it. Six years later, this is what I've come up with.

It's no secret that the idea of hell isn't well-liked (well, I mean who actually likes the idea of hell?) Sadly, under the supposed guise of trying to reach young people, many Christian teachers have been turning to ideas like universal salvation to try to make Christianity more appealing. Of course, if you accept an idea like universal salvation, the premise of why you would want to reach anyone at all doesn't make sense fundamentally—and neither does the entire gospel. In order to deal with Christianity, you must deal with the idea of hell. And in order to deal with the idea of hell, you must deal with the idea of God's wrath. And that's really the crux, isn't it?

Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane raises the question again of whether God really has to show his wrath. A lot of people ask, "Can't he just relent? Isn't he merciful?" But God shows his mercy at the cross, where Jesus—who was in very nature God—suffered God's wrath in our place. It must have been gruesome, dreadful, and many other things that words cannot express, or Jesus wouldn't have feared it so much in the Garden. That, indeed, is the Garden's message. How fearful is God's wrath! but how much deeper his grace!

What I realized is that God's wrath is not the enemy here. As dreadful as it is, it is not the thing that is the most terrible, or God and Christ never would have been in agreement about the cross. The Bible is clear that it was God's will for Christ to suffer. No, the thing that is the most awful is our sin. Our sin was what perverted the whole system, rent the very fabric of the universe. Sin is what was so terrible that God and Christ chose to suffer to free us from it, mending the relationship that was fundamentally broken on that fateful day in the Garden of Eden. Something was seriously wrong, and the problem is not God's anger. He is not a Machiavellian. The only remaining question is, what were things supposed to be like?

President Obama: "If You Have a Business, You Didn't Build That"

Wowza. You would think that President Obama is digging a hole for himself, but nope, people are eating it up. Accusing him of socialist ideas isn't even considered crazy anymore; his words have already betrayed him. Seemingly the only remaining question in Democrats' minds is whether socialism is bad.

The following is an excerpt (in context) of President Obama's speech at a campaign stop in Roanoke, VA:

"We’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts. We can make some more cuts in programs that don’t work, and make government work more efficiently…We can make another trillion or trillion-two, and what we then do is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more …

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me, because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for president – because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.”
(Read the entire speech here)

There's a little bit of validity to his argument. Yes, we are not an anarchy. We need government to protect people's lives and property. The rule of law is what makes us a republic, and we need those laws. Neither are we Communist or any other kind of totalitarian nation—we are free to build businesses without excessive regulation from government, which hinders progress, robs from the people to fill the pockets of the rulers, and just generally saps liberty, replacing it with corruption. The 20th century Communist experiments have taught us never to make the same mistakes: the worst genocides in history came out of Communism. Other terrible genocides have come out of anarchy. No, we are somewhere in between.

But I can assure you that President Obama's argument is not one against anarchy. We're simply too structured for that. We ride a delicate balance, it's true, but President Obama is wanting to take us further left than we've ever been, and there's danger with that. He wants to turn us into Democratic Socialists. We can keep the democracy part, but the republic part gets replaced with self-sacrifice. Don't fit the mold? The law's punishments will inconvenience us at first, then will slowly ensnare us. This isn't about rich versus poor—trust me, I was poor—it's about government versus the people. Liberty versus tyranny. Democrats and Republicans versus Democrats and Republicans in office. Give them an inch, and they'll take many miles, which we won't be able to regain.

Is this really what we want in 2012?

Obama trolling famous inventors is now actually a meme.