Spiritual Beachheads

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A reality I believe is too often ignored is that we live amidst a great spiritual war. While I shy away from going to great extremes to shout “Onward Christian soldier,” I also recognize the battle that goes on in my own life and in others. There is an enemy. A defeated enemy, crushed by Christ, but still an enemy who moves to frustrate, deceive, and tempt.

It is the reality of spiritual warfare that I believe in the necessity of prayer. Particularly, the necessity of praying over people and places. As I had mentioned prior, Sarah and I are starting our international outreach ministry in prayer walking key areas of Edmond, OK.

Last Thursday, we were joined by a church family in walking throughout the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma. We prayed over the students, administration, and even specific locations, praying that God may raise up opportunities to create spiritual beachheads in an area and among people who don’t know Him. It was a blessed time but one that brought to light the great struggle and task ahead. However, there is hope.

Unlike the wars of our world, the spiritual battles of the faithful are not won with weapons. It is in our obedience and submission to God that we experience the victory that He has already won. We have nothing to fear. We are on the winning side. We must simply obey and live victoriously.

Tomorrow, this Thursday, we will be prayer walking at Hafer Park in Edmond. This park is notable for being a lively gathering spot for families and Sarah and I often see international families there. In fact, we’ve even met some through outreach gatherings of Edmond First Baptist Church. We will be meeting the playground near the pond at 5:30 pm. If you would like to join us, message me at xtiannetizen@gmail.com or simply show up. Regardless, pray with us that God will allow us to sow seeds and build relationships that will lead to salvation at the park. Pray specifically that Sarah may connect with other women and pour into their lives. Pray also that God may allow us to gain a foothold at UCO among the lives of international students.

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South Korea Profile

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A country with a large Christian population. Churches are a regular sight. Missionaries being sent from this country all over the world. You might think I was talking about the US but I’m referring to South Korea.

While Christianity took time to grow in South Korea, 30% of South Koreans profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, with over 15% being evangelical. This is phenomenal compared to many neighboring East Asian countries, with nearby Japan having more than double the population but only 0.5% claiming to be Christian. Its evident that God is working mightily among South Korea.

LEARN ABOUT SOUTH KOREA’S GREAT MISSIONARY MOVEMENT

South Korea is saturated with a Gospel presence but is far from a “Christian” nation. In fact, despite a large Christian demographic, more than 30% are non-religious with nearly 25% following Bhuddism. The true spiritual condition of South Korea is a country accepting of Christians but not willing to call Jesus their Savior and Lord.

In Edmond, Oklahoma, East Asians make up a tremendous number of the immigrant population. Among them, South Koreans are the leading people group among all internationals attending the University of Central Oklahoma. For students, already seeking their identity and future, now is the time for bold men and women of the faith to introduce them to the hope found in Jesus Christ. Presently, there is no Korean church in the NE OKC/ Edmond area.

The largest people groups in Edmond and OKC also include South East Asians, Chinese, Arabs, and Vietnamese.

For the Koreans

-Pray that they may recognize Jesus as Savior and Lord, including nominal Korean Christians.

-Pray for Korean Christians to gather and form a church in the NE OKC/Edmond area.

-Pray that the Korean church will multiply among its people, fervently obeying the Great Commission and making new disciples.

A Teachable Spirit

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UPDATE: The original time of the prayer walk has edited at the bottom.

Jesus had left the disciples. The Holy Spirit had arrived with Pentecost. The disciples were now evangelizing, ministering to, and teaching to thousands. We see throughout Acts and through the numerous letters written to the growing Church, teaching and discipleship were critical for the Church to remain obedient to the Great Commission.

As Sarah and I begin our work to make disciples of all nations, we also recognize our need to be discipled, as well. As God is constantly at work, we must always be ready and willing to learn, adapt, and live in Christ-like humility. Its here where we are joining a house church effort by those who have a similar passion and a wealth of experience. Not only is this group a treasure-trove of knowledge but is modeling the same house church model we want to disciple others in.

This week is the start of some of our efforts in Edmond and we begin not by doing but by listening and learning. We will be prayer walking throughout Edmond for God to reveal His works and our calling. In fact, on Thursday (1/24), I invite anyone who would be willing to join Sarah and I in prayer walking the UCO campus, one of our focus areas. We will begin at 5:30 pm and end by 6 pm, at Fink Park. We will have specific prayer guides that you can pray through and continue to pray for afterwards. Email, call, or message me if you would like to join us.

South East Asia Profile

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Oklahoma is a growing hub of international activity. Dozens of people groups call the greater Oklahoma City area home. One of the largest non-Hispanic international people groups are South East Asians, which itself is made of numerous people groups.

A drive through Edmond, OK will reveal numerous businesses by South East Asians. Indian, Bengali, Nepali, and Pakistani restaurants and grocery stores dot the city. Beyond their own establishments, many also work for the medical and tech fields here. Well-rooted in the Edmond community, several of the South East Asians would attend services at the nearby mosques and temples. Collectively, while from different countries and backgrounds, South East Asians form a group of near-culture people that have almost no Gospel presence in Edmond and OKC.

Of the few South East Asian Christians, I know of only a few small Indian churches and house churches and one small Bengali church. These dozens of Christ-followers are a drop in the bucket for impacting their people with the Gospel. There is a great need to create disciples of Christ that will then go on to reach the South East Asians of Edmond, OKC, and throughout the world (learn about the 10/40 window).

South East Asians are some of the most challenging people groups to reach. With different faiths, languages, cultures, and geo-political backgrounds, there is a difficult task ahead for anyone sowing seeds among these peoples. However, with the command of the Great Commission, Christ also gave the promise that He is with us. The impossible is made possible through Jesus.

The largest people groups in Edmond and OKC also include Koreans, Chinese, Arabs, and Vietnamese.

For the South East Asians:

-Pray that God raise up believers who will bear witness of Christ to them

-Pray that hearts will be turned from the false truths of Islam and Hinduism, declaring salvation in no other name than in Christ Jesus.

-Pray for disciples who will go on and start Gospel movements among their own people, leading to new churches that will continue to fulfill the Great Commission across the globe.

Person of Peace

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As my family embarks on a new adventure in living on missions, prayerfully towards the international communities in Edmond, OK, we are praying for two types of people. One are partners who also are on fire for impacting the international students and residents with the Gospel. The other is to find persons of peace. A Person of Peace is a term for those individuals who are welcoming to the missionary, interested in your life as a Christ-follower, and may even assist you in your work.

THE “PERSON OF PEACE” PRECEDENT

While its very possible that God will not provide a person of peace, it is important to recognize that sometimes He may. It is A method He uses to accomplish His work. There are numerous examples in the New Testament where God used welcoming and open non-believers. Jesus encountered the Woman at the Well and Zacchaeus. Philip would meet the Eunuch from Ethiopia and Paul would meet Lydia. These men and women were not only eager to hear the Good News but would later assist others in hearing it.

MY MUSLIM FRIEND

When I served with the International Mission Board as a missionary, I spent a great deal of time befriending Muslims. Often my encounters were blessed but short-lived. I’d meet a new friend, we would lightly discuss our faiths, and often I would give them Gospel media as a gift. I would sometimes revisit them but due to language barriers, I was always limited in my ability to talk in-depth regarding spiritual topics.

I was out one day visiting a community when I met a group of men who worked at a local bazaar. This close-knit group of nearly 20 shopkeepers were all from the same region of Pakistan. I greeted them and was received warmly. One man, who I will call Aagha, was far more eager to know me than the rest. His English was the strongest of them all and we were able to chat very casually. In later visits, Aagha would actually help me translate to the groups. Soon, discussions began about what it was like being a Christ-follower. The group invited me to dinner for the sole purpose of hearing about what the Bible says of Jesus. Aagha served as my translator and would fire back questions the group had, as well. Eventually, I would build relationships with the entire community, gift them with the Gospel, and even have a showing of the Jesus Film in their native language! All of it, however, started by God utilizing Aagha, a Pakistani Muslim. While I never knew if Aagha came to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, I know, to and through him, I presented the Gospel to many who were seeking spiritual peace.

PRAYERS FOR OUR “PERSONS OF PEACE”

For Sarah and I, we are praying for the internationals who will not only be receptive to the Gospel but will help us break through into new areas and people groups. Not having any other language asset beyond Urdu, these persons of peace may very well help us with translation and language learning. This is a critical need for us as we discern how God will have us make disciples of the nations. Please pray for us in this way:

-For teachable, humble spirits that will discern God’s direction and join Him in His work, not “ours”. 

-For partners, both individuals and organizations will come alongside us (and us them) for reaching the Edmond international communities.

-For persons of peace, who will receive us warmly, eager to learn of and embrace Christ as Lord and Savior, and be a disciple-making bridge towards new communities. 

 

Don’t worry about Zika virus…yet.

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The Zika virus, a mosquito born illness, has grabbed headlines as it causes panic among expectant mothers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began emergency actions in late January in response to outbreaks of Zika in Central and South America. The Zika virus is known for causing birth defects in the babies of pregnant women. Only a few weeks after the initial actions, the CDC would elevate their emergency teams to their highest level of response. With no cure or vaccine, the Zika virus has many questioning if they are safe and how to protect themselves.

Dr. Kristy Bradley serves as the Oklahoma Department of Health’s State Epidemiologist. Beyond local outbreak prevention efforts, Bradley also works in national groups to develop a surveillance plan for the US in response to the Zika virus. She shares how it has already made its way to the States, “The CDC is reporting a total of 84 cases of the Zika virus disease in the United States but all 84 are infections that have been acquired overseas.”

Explore an interactive map of the Zika virus cases in the US here.

The CDC breaks the spread of the Zika virus into two broad categories: travel-acquired and locally transmitted. All of the Zika virus cases in the US have been considered travel-acquired, which occurs when the patient was infected while traveling outside the US in an area with the Zika-carrying mosquitos and returns to the US. Local transmission is where the patient was infected by a domestic mosquito that carrying the virus. While Zika can also be transmitted by blood transfusion and even sexual contact, the virus would still have originated either through travel or local transmission.

Aedes aegypti

Aedes Aegypti

As of right now, there are no known cases of the Zika virus in Oklahoma. Dr. Bradley explains that our mosquitos are just different. “In regards to the Zika virus, the Aedes Aegypti, or the common name is the Yellow Fever mosquito, is the main type of mosquito that’s effective in spreading this virus…We only have some parts of the United States that have populations of yellow fever mosquitos and its not in Oklahoma.”

 

While Bradley acknowledges the outbreak sounds alarming, Zika only affects 1 in 5 people. The infection yields mild symptoms of a fever, rash, joint pains, and red eyes. The virus usually is gone within a week’s time. The main concern of Zika revolves entirely around pregnant women as it can cause birth defects in the baby. The common birth defect is microcephaly, where the baby’s head grows much smaller than average and can lead to several developmental disabilities. If you suspect you might have symptoms of the Zika, the CDC recommends seeking your healthcare provider, who can test for the virus.

Zika Virus Prevention Tips

  • Avoid travel to Zika outbreak areas.
  • If you must travel to such areas, wear long-sleeve clothing, use insect repellant, and avoid areas and times where mosquitos are common.
  • Avoid sexual contact or wear protection with Zika-infected individuals.

Dr. Bradley says there is no need for concern but that may not always be the case. While the Zika virus’s main carrier is the Yellow Fever mosquito, there is always the possibility that the virus might spread to a native species of mosquito. With so few cases in the US, chances of a domestic mosquito biting and becoming a carrier of Zika are slim. However, Bradley warns of one upcoming event that might change that, Spring Break.

 

 

The best way to stay safe from the Zika virus is to remain informed. Following information by the CDC will keep you updated and aware of prevention methods. While the potential for a US outbreak does exist, health officials say there is no immediate need to panic. More information on Zika can be found on the CDC website and also by visiting the Oklahoma Department of Health’s Zika page.

Oil tax breaks cripple Oklahoma schools

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In 2014, the State of Oklahoma wagered the good times would last. Oklahoma placed its chip on tax breaks. A gamble made in desperation, the state stood so much to lose. The dice rolled snake eyes. Every state department is malnourished by budget cuts. Facing bleaker economics in 2016, Oklahoma demands even more cuts. One of the most devastated departments is Education. The children of Oklahoma are the ones to pay the price for a bet gone badly.

The cost of oil comfortably sat at over $100 a barrel in the summer of 2014. Oklahoma passed a bill that legislature hoped would encourage more drilling. Starting in June 2015, new wells would only be taxed 2% for their first 3 years, afterwards climbing to 7%. Oil plays a key part of Oklahoma’s Gross Production revenue, which is the state’s 3rd largest source of revenue. By the end of 2014, however, the price of oil plummeted to half its value. Starting the New Year, oil is under $30 a barrel. This compounded the existing economic woes caused by low top tax rates. In response, the State of Oklahoma forced massive budget cuts across almost every department. Already ranked one of the worst states for education, the Oklahoma Department of Education was hit even harder by another round of budget cuts this January. The excessive tax breaks to both individuals and companies have created the opposite effect of their purpose.

The lower tax rate for drilling is not without its backers. Supporters are quick to point to oil price’s ebb and flow. The bill makes sense when oil prices are high and when residents are pouring into the economy. Advocates don’t want to make knee-jerk reactions in the event prices should rise again. The problem is that the entire bill relies on the accuracy of estimates, which have proven over and over to not be reliable.

The combination of income tax cuts and tax breaks to the oil industry has crippled Oklahoma’s departments. This includes almost $47 million cuts from the Department of Education. A 3% reduction is mandated this year across the board. School lunch matching loses 30%. AP teacher training, AP test fee assistance, and staff development funds are halved. The STEM program (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is completely defunded. It’s predicted some schools will be forced to close.

Oklahoma is caught in a downward spiral with its tax breaks and budget cuts. Education leads to prosperity. By defunding education efforts, Oklahoma will fail in creating leaders and industry pioneers. It’s self-damning to cut STEM programs that would produce future engineers and scientists. Oklahoma’s taxes must be revised for any recovery to occur.

Renewable energy is gaining more attention as oil’s appeal wanes. Despite push back from oil lobbyists, Oklahoma should focus its tax incentives for the emerging wind and solar industry. While oil will always remain in constant flux, wind and solar energy would provide a stable market. The State is poised to be a national leader in renewable energy if it would make the commitment. Along with revisions to income tax rates, the Gross Production revenue from a diverse energy portfolio would put Oklahoma’s education back on track, ensuring a brighter future.

It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”