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Ancient Holidays and Current Celebrations

Purim is a festival celebrated annually on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, which typically falls in late February or early March. This holiday commemorates the rescue of the Jewish people from a genocidal plot hatched against them in ancient Persia. The tale is narrated in the Book of Esther, which is recited in synagogues during Purim.

According to the story, King Ahasuerus of Persia chose Esther, a Jewish woman, to be his queen. Her uncle Mordechai, a Jewish elder, discovered a conspiracy by Haman, the king’s advisor, to destroy all Jews in the realm. With Mordechai’s help, Esther was able to inform the king of Haman’s nefarious plan and turned the tables on him, resulting in the salvation of the Jewish people.

On Purim, Jews typically congregate in synagogues to listen to the reading of the Book of Esther, also known as the Megillah. They also participate in merrymaking by wearing costumes and masks, often depicting characters from the story of Esther. In addition, Jews give gifts of food to their loved ones, donate to charity, and engage in festive meals.

Purim is a time to celebrate the Jewish people’s survival in the face of adversity. It is a time to come together as a community, donate to those in need, and revel in feasting and merriment. The holiday’s most recognizable tradition is the wearing of costumes and masks, which symbolizes the idea that the world is not always as it appears to be.

Moreover, Purim is marked by the giving of mishloach manot, which are gifts of food given to friends and family. Charity is also an essential aspect of the holiday. Jews are encouraged to give donations to the needy, reflecting the significance of kindness and goodwill in Jewish culture. In addition, the holiday often involves drinking alcohol and feasting, which is seen as a way to symbolize the reversal of fortune that saved the Jewish people in the story of Esther.

Overall, Purim is a joyous occasion that honors the resilience of the Jewish people in the face of adversity. It is a time to celebrate with family and friends, give to those in need, and revel in the holiday’s festive spirit. The holiday’s customs and traditions serve to remind the Jewish community of the power of hope, courage, and the human spirit in overcoming challenging circumstances.

Unique Opportunities

Christians who run community gardens offer numerous benefits to society. These gardens are often established in areas where access to fresh produce is limited due to economic or geographic barriers. Operating under the belief that it is their responsibility to care for those in need and the environment, Christians aim to follow biblical teachings.

One of the significant advantages of community gardens is that they provide fresh and healthy produce to individuals who may not have access to it otherwise. This is especially important in areas designated as “food deserts” where people cannot easily find affordable and fresh produce. In addition to improving access to nutritious food, community gardens also create a sense of community and connection among individuals who may have otherwise been isolated.

Furthermore, community gardens serve as a platform for individuals to learn about sustainable agriculture and play an active role in caring for the environment. Christians who operate these gardens often view it as a means of responsible stewardship of God’s creation. By employing organic and sustainable gardening methods, these gardens can contribute to reducing the negative impact of traditional agriculture on the environment.

Community gardens run by Christians can serve as a platform for learning and skill development. Workshops and classes on gardening, nutrition, and cooking offered by garden organizers can provide an opportunity for participants to enhance their knowledge and skillset. Besides, these gardens can also act as a haven for individuals who are dealing with mental health or addiction issues.

Apart from the evident physical and environmental advantages, community gardens can foster social and spiritual well-being. Collaborating to nurture and sustain the garden can help establish connections and purpose among participants. Christians operating these gardens see it as a chance to embody their faith by extending love and service to their community.

In summary, community gardens run by Christians can bring about several benefits to society, ranging from promoting access to healthy food, to encouraging environmental sustainability, offering educational prospects, and fostering social and spiritual well-being. These gardens are an outstanding model of how faith-based organizations can have a positive influence on their communities by advocating values of community, stewardship, and compassion.

It’s Our Joy

In our present society, there is a prevalent storyline that emphasizes the pursuit of pleasure as the ultimate goal in life. This narrative is ingrained in us through various channels, including subtle messages and explicit instructions, urging us to prioritize our immediate happiness.

However, for followers of the Christian faith, this belief couldn’t be more misguided. The Bible instructs believers to consider everything worthless in comparison to the immeasurable value of knowing Jesus Christ as their Lord. But what does this truly entail? Is God unconcerned with our happiness?

God defines true happiness as the state of being closest to Him. As the Creator and the one who deeply cares for our souls, God understands that we can never attain long-lasting contentment or bliss without His presence. Hence, although He has bestowed upon us a beautiful world to relish, He may frequently challenge us to relinquish our trivial attachments to pursue Him.

As humans, we tend to indulge in idolatry more than any other sin. We frequently devote ourselves to anything that provides us with fleeting joy, even if it is temporary satisfaction or relief. God often examines the faith of those who profess love for Him by testing their willingness to abandon these momentary pleasures in favor of His love. Abraham’s obedience on Mount Moriah, the disciples leaving their lucrative fishing nets, and the rich young ruler’s struggle demonstrate the truth of this concept.

For individuals who have a genuine relationship with God, the decision to follow His commands is simple. God demands only what we could never truly possess, as everything we have comes from Him. In exchange, He offers us unparalleled worth.

Are we willing to surrender all of our possessions, even our lives, for God’s sake? If we comprehend His essence, His values, and His compassionate nature, we will willingly do so. The underground church is aware of this reality and withholds nothing, not even their lives, to attain the incomprehensible delight of being in Christ’s presence.

One of our key vision statements at Global Catalytic Ministries reflects our belief: We are willing to relinquish things we hold dear in exchange for things we cherish even more. It is a privilege to offer sacrifices for Christ’s sake.

The worldwide church needs to thoroughly assess our hearts. Is there anything, anything at all, that we are not prepared to surrender for Jesus Christ? If we discover such a deficiency, we must wholeheartedly seek Him until we find the missing piece. Similar to the man who discovers the valuable pearl, we must realize the worth of the One we have discovered, to the extent that we are willing to sacrifice everything to keep Him.

Once we make this commitment, we will be able to echo the sentiments of the church throughout history, affirming that it is a delight to abandon what we cherish for the One we cherish even more.

A Different View

At Global Catalytic Ministries, one of our mission statements is that we don’t just survive persecution, we thrive in it. It doesn’t matter if we are well-fed or hungry, rich or poor, facing persecution or living in freedom, in the East or West – we can be content in Jesus and make disciples. We firmly believe that this is not only possible for every Christian to live this way, but it is also critical.

The Western church tends to view their persecuted brothers and sisters worldwide with a mix of pity and gratitude. They feel sorry for those who are suffering and are grateful that they themselves are not experiencing the same hardship. However, it is interesting to note that the persecuted church feels the same way about the church in the West.

It is natural for people to shy away from pain, but the Bible shows us that we are not just meant to survive persecution, but to thrive in it. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake blessed, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. He encourages persecuted believers to rejoice in their suffering because their reward in Heaven will be great.

It’s puzzling that so many Christians spend an inordinate amount of effort setting up a safe, comfortable life where they will face as few trials as possible. This is not possible for a true Christian, and it is certainly not Biblical. Instead, we are told to count it as joy when we face various trials. The book of James suggests that we will receive both earthly and eternal rewards for our suffering, including perseverance leading to maturity.

If we look at the persecuted church, we can see the Biblical truth of thriving in persecution lived out before our eyes. The areas where the church faces the most severe backlash also tend to see the most growth. This is not accidental but rather a Kingdom exchange, where we trade our weakness for His strength.

The persecuted church knows that in their suffering, they are being made more like Jesus on Earth and earning a share of His eternal reward in Heaven. For the Christian, there could be no greater joy than this.

Of course, this does not mean that we should pursue persecution for its own sake. Instead, we are meant to pursue Jesus with wild, brave, wholehearted abandon. When we embrace the Biblical understanding of persecution, we can do this without hindrance or fear.

By making peace with the fact that Christians will suffer, and embracing the truth that this suffering makes us blessed on Earth and in Heaven, we can obey the call of God on our lives. In turn, we can impact the world like the early church did, with a faith that changes work places, cities, nations, and even generations.

It is time for the global church to redefine its understanding of persecution and free ourselves up to thrive in all circumstances, serving Jesus whatever the cost.

A Look at Global Catalytic Ministry’s Activities in Afghanistan

With over 99 percent of its population being Muslims, Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to practice Christianity. The danger has skyrocketed even further following the Taliban’s seizure of power in 2021. Before the Taliban takeover, the government allowed foreign Christians to practice their faith but not publicly or try to preach to others.

Practicing Christianity or any other faith openly could offend the average people heavily influenced by terrorists and the Taliban. The situation is even more dangerous for Afghan natives who convert to Christianity from Islam as it is considered a serious offense. Also, in Islamic law, people can be vindicated from sins like homicide if it’s against persons considered apostate or blasphemous.

However, even with this inherent danger for Christians and the overwhelming number of Muslims, the nonprofit Christian organization Global Catalytic Ministries has bravely continued to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and perform humanitarian works in the country.

Founded in 2011 and based in Nampa, Idaho, Global Catalytic Ministry (GCM) is an organization that seeks to transform Muslims across the globe through Jesus Christ. Aside from Afghanistan, the organization is present in 13 other countries and regions globally, including Indonesia, Iran, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and others. GCM tries to draw more Muslims to Christ using disciple-making, church planting, and leadership development. The organization consists of nationals and former Muslims. GCM believes that people who Christ has transformed have a better chance of reaching more Muslims as they understand the culture better.

GCM has been in Afghanistan even before the Taliban came to power and played an active role in helping Christians escape persecution and providing relief items to believers and unbelievers. However, since the takeover, ensuing withdrawal of American troops, and closure of the American Embassy in Kabul, the organization has had much more to do as believers are now more likely to be persecuted than ever.

Several reports of Christians fleeing into the mountains and hills for fear of their lives. Not deterred by this increased and ever-present threat, GCM’s evangelists, volunteers, and the underground Christian movement in the country continue to lay their lives in devotion to the lord, planting self-replicating underground house churches and forming committed disciples.

GCM has managed to bring in money to buy food, coal, and wood, as it is very cold in the mountainous country. There are many parts of Afghanistan where people use wood and coal to stay warm, as they don’t have natural gas and electricity. GCM has worked to get as much wood and coal as possible to believers and unbelievers. As of August 2021, the organization had raised over $1.8 million, which it uses to fund its operations in the country.

GCM has partnered with several American churches, such as Church of the Highlands in Alabama, Gateway Church in Texas, and Victory Center in Arizona. These partnerships seek to achieve several things, including helping people vulnerable to human trafficking and forced marriage escape, providing the basic needs like food, water, shelter, and security of GCM’s leaders on the ground, and establishing an underground network to help people escape.

Christian Volunteer Programs – Saving Lives, Transforming Lives

Christian organizations have made significant contributions to helping victims of war and facilitating peace. Their volunteer activity is an integral part of post-war recovery and rehabilitation. In the Christian community, churches donate daily to help victims of natural disasters, war, and displaced people. They also give people hope by sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Volunteers offer education and counseling to adults and children who are traumatized by the war. They provide refugee shelters and special homes for survivors of domestic violence and other forms of abuse. In special situations, volunteers may take temporary custody of children who have lost their parents. They also offer to rescue families and place them in safer zones.

Christian organizations provide cooked meals, food items, childcare, clothing, and professional medical assistance to injured people. In 2016, the Christain Aid Center in Walla Walla reported that they give 37,000 meals each year. This Christian organization provides breakfast and dinner to people in need.

Women and children are particularly vulnerable during a crisis. As a result, locals may take advantage of them in exchange for clean water and hygiene products.
Christian volunteer organizations now make it a priority to provide special homes for women. They ensure access to clean water, feminine hygiene products, and WASH facilities.

Sometimes, volunteers stay behind to plant churches and build seminary schools. The volunteers train the adults in the community and involve them in the teaching process. The schools would equip children and youths with formal education and vocational training. In some places, they may be introduced to the Christian religion.

Fundraising for the community is essential. A part of the funds received from donations is allocated to the communities to help them rebuild. To ensure that these funds are used appropriately, organizations like Stronghold rescue and relief equip locals with skills and tools to help themselves.

Currently, there are several Christian missionaries helping people who want to flee Ukraine and settle in safe neighboring countries. There are several organizations dedicated to raising funds and providing safe transportation. Some focus on providing care facilities for senior citizens, disabled people, and children. Many have refugee centers to house displaced people and help them connect with their families.

Providing relief in war-torn countries can pose a challenge because of religious disparities, especially in the Middle East. However, this has not stopped religious organizations from helping people in need.
There are Christian missions in the middle east to help people who have lost their homes and families to war. An example is the ‘Embrace the Middle East’ Christian charity. Its mission is to eradicate poverty and injustice. They achieve this through education, volunteering in hospitals, connecting lost family members, and women empowerment.

Christianity is a widespread religion, and so are its volunteer programs. Volunteering is beneficial to both individuals in need and the volunteers themselves. Christian organizations have provided relief materials to nations across the globe. Volunteer activities have helped in many continents, from Europe to North and South America to Africa and Asia. Christian volunteer programs are saving and transforming lives.

Sheep Among Wolves Documentary

Thousands of organizations across the globe support the religious ministry. Some focus their efforts domestically, while others help send missionaries to foreign countries. These groups usually consist of volunteers and trained missionaries who want to bring positive change to a particular area using faith-based efforts.

In some instances, missionaries serve domestically but work “against” their governments or local faith leaders. This often occurs in countries where the regimes in power force people to follow one particular religion. In some areas, this work can be dangerous if there is general hostility toward an entire religion. To remain safe, incoming foreign missionaries and supportive nationals must often keep a low profile in such countries.

Sheep Among Wolves is a documentary covering this scenario about missionaries in a hostile environment. The film is about a Christian faith organization with missionaries working in the Middle East, specifically Iran. The main goal of these missionaries is to create disciples of Jesus Christ, specifically in this area of the world with other strict ideologies.

The subtitle of the Sheep Among Wolves documentary is “the Iranian regime is losing control of the Iranian people to a sweeping movement of women who follow Israel’s messiah.” The film’s production company, Frontiers Alliance International (FAI) Studios, further explained on its website that Iran is home to one of the fastest-growing churches today, led by mostly women who remain undercover during their efforts.

This area of the world is dominated by Islam and Sharia Law. Some followers of the law believe harm should come to anyone who does not follow Islam. The documentary deems this Christian movement the “underground church,” as many of the women cannot be identified due to safety reasons. This sparked the name, Sheep Among Wolves.

The documentary, which is in two parts, covers the work of missionaries who are not affiliated with any non-profit organizations or businesses and do not own any property or bank accounts designated for their church. The Sheep Among Wolves films state that the movement is led entirely by Iranian nationals and former Muslims. This underground church has no central leadership but is affiliated with Global Catalytic Ministries.

Sheep Among Wolves discusses the differences between sharing Christianity in the Middle East and in the western world. The documentary’s goal is to bring an understanding of this dangerous mission work back to churches in the west. The film aims to educate western Christians on how to remain faithful and endure in the event of current or future religious persecution.

The documentary also discusses the difference between everyday Iranian life and what is depicted in the media. Some westerners believe many Iranians are hostile toward the west, but the documentary states that a small percentage of government and religious leaders control that image through the media. The film states that more people have converted to Christianity in Iran in the last 40 years than in the previous 1,400 years.

Sheep Among Wolves was first released in 2016 by FAI Studios, founded by Dalton Thomas. Thomas is the director of the two-part documentary and other films and documentaries produced by FAI Studios that also have religious and biblical themes, including Covenant and the Controversy and Days of Noah.