Every December since 1888, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering has empowered Southern Baptists’ international missions work. This year’s Lottie Moon Offering and Week of Prayer feature people doing difficult work around the world—whether they’re reaching out to Muslims in Russia, starting a new church in Japan, or giving hope to refugees.
Reaching the unreached
When most people think of Russia, they may conjure up images of Romanov royalty, a parade of dictators like Stalin and Lenin or Brezhnev, or maybe cultural icons such as Mikhail Baryshnikov or Dostoyevsky. They don’t think of Muslims.
But Islam is part of the fabric of old Russia—it made it there 66 years before Christianity did. As a result, Muslim groups are indigenous to the North Caucasus region, an area between the Black and Caspian Seas situated on northern slopes of the mountain range that generally separates Europe from Asia. These people groups include 45 to 50 subsets of people and even more languages, making them very difficult to reach.
However many of them are moving into Moscow, Russia’s capital, which now has more Muslims than any other European city. Its newly reopened Grand Mosque can hold 10,000 worshippers.
“God says, ‘If you can’t go to them, I’ll bring them to you,’” said Elizabeth*, a Christian worker among Muslims in Moscow. “There’s no better time to be in the former Soviet Union. God is moving Muslims right under our noses.”
Seeing the impossible
International Mission Board missionaries Jared and Tara Jones (below) knew that God could do a lot with something little. But they never imagined just how many doors he would open through their adopted infant son, Ezra.
In the East Asian country, 40,000 children live in orphanages, but parents rarely give up their rights so that a child can be adopted. But the Joneses knew God had placed a baby on their hearts, and they prayed. “We serve a God who makes doors where doors don’t exist,” Jared said. “And this little guy gives us multiple opportunities to talk about the Lord.”
Their son’s pediatrician was the key to another door—a church plant they had been praying about for years. One day, the doctor told Tara out of the blue that she wanted to start a church at her office and asked if Jared could lead it. Tara described it as a divine appointment. The first Sunday 70 people came. They’ve seen hearts changed and people keep coming.
Remembering the forgotten
Don Alan* says he remembers a refugee telling him once that he didn’t feel alive, but he wasn’t dead either—he was somewhere in between.
“Hopelessness is a universal feeling among refugees,” Don said. “They feel forgotten.” That’s why International Mission Board missionaries like Don, who serves in North Africa and the Middle East, and Seth Payton*, who works with refugees in Europe, spend their lives taking hope into those hopeless places.
“Refugees come to Europe looking for a better life, and many times they find nothing,” Seth said. Often, they’ve paid traffickers a high price for a long, miserable trip across the desert and then a dangerous boat ride across the Mediterranean Sea. If they make it alive, then they often can’t get jobs. They spend their days scrounging for food and their nights packed into an apartment with 15 other people.
“We pray that through this time God will open their hearts and draw them into his kingdom through the hope that he offers,” Seth said. “Hundreds of refugees from closed countries are becoming believers in Europe. So there are great things happening in the midst of a heartbreaking situation.”
2017 Week of Prayer for International Missions
Go to IMB.org/lottie-moon-christmas-offering for videos, stories, photos, and prayer requests for each day of the Week of Prayer for International Missions:
Day 1: The Bagby family in Nepal hikes rough terrain to bring the gospel to unreached people and villages.
Day 2: God is moving Muslims of Russia toward faith in Christ.
Day 3: For the Jones family in Japan, God is using the adoption of their son to open doors and hearts.
Day 4: The diverse backgrounds and skills of the Mexico City team help them serve unreached people in this global megacity.
Day 5: Often alone, the forgotten refugee needs to know he is loved by God. IMB missionaries have the opportunity to share the hope of the gospel.
Day 6: The world converges in the kitchen of the Mikeska family in London. There they encourage new believers and develop strategic friendships.
Day 7: Celebrate what God has done to draw people to himself and continue praying for hearts open to him.
Day 8: Boldness, clarity, joy, effectiveness, and more. This is what IMB missionaries need and why prayer matters.