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Trip to Egypt full of surprises

Ali and I travelled to Cairo, Egypt, for a short 3-day visit in May. Staying in a hotel near the famous Tahrir Square—the focal point for demonstrations that led to the Egyptian revolution in 2011 and the resignation of President Mubarak—reminded us of the huge changes taking place in the Arab-Muslim countries.

Scott Smith, Director of Discipleship 

We went primarily to visit a well-known, experienced leader who recently expressed to Ali his interest in DDK. We also wanted to see Berti, our lead translator and friend, to encourage him and talk about some translation issues. 

Just a few days before our trip, Berti, who is also a member of our competency cohort and is growing in his understanding of the DDK paradigm and training approach, arranged for us to meet with leaders from three other movements. 

Now, we have never viewed Egypt as an audience for DDK. As Ali observed, there are already 20 million Christians in the country, though their churches cannot legally witness to Muslims, and most church activities serve nominal Christians.

 But Berti insisted we meet these leaders, saying that they need DDK and are really interested in knowing more. We agreed to visit them, but expected little. 

We first spent several hours with a man who founded a ministry comprising a whole movement of churches, with television and social ministries. The next day we met his son, a dynamic young leader.

Resonating with DDK as we explained it, the son wants to move ahead with it and fully train a set of key leaders to carry it into the whole movement. 

The next day we met with two other ministries whose young leaders are eager to break out of traditions and return to New Testament ways. 

Again, we were surprised by their interest and their desire to engage with DDK. 

Finally, we met with the leader we had originally planned to see. We spent a whole morning with him and one of his key young leaders. Now he’s busy studying materials we left with him to help him understand DDK. 

Where will this all lead? Time will tell. We were impressed by this new generation of Egyptian church/ministry leaders. The Lord must be preparing to do some major things in the next decades in Egypt and beyond. 

If Egyptian leaders like these—with ministries already active across North Africa—begin implementing DDK, this will lend additional support to our growing network of DDK users in the region. And vice versa! 

Please pray for insight into how our networks in other countries of North Africa can help the Egyptian church. 

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When printing isn’t possible

What happens when printing Christian study materials—such as our DDK discipleship curriculum—abruptly stops? 

We just learned that the Bible Societies bookstore/print shop in Algiers, Algeria, was closed down by the local authorities. Another print shop run by the church in Oran was closed a couple months ago. One of our partners is still able to print, but for how long? 

At this time, anyone caught with more than one Bible or any printed Christian materials is subject to arrest, a fine, and imprisonment. Authorities are now randomly stopping and searching vehicles at roadblocks in an effort to stop the circulation of Christian materials. One brother reported that police stopped and questioned him when he was transporting some DDK First Principles booklets. Fortunately, they did not see the materials or search his car. 

ALTERNATIVES 

So, what can we do about this problem? Firstly, we format our materials so they can be printed out on a personal printer at home. They are also easy to photocopy. Secondly, small groups can share booklets, and can even effectively do the study with one booklet, with people writing on separate pieces of paper. 

Next, the digital revolution can help us. We can put the materials on our website or on the cloud and people can access them and read them on their computers, cell phones, and tablets.

In the future, we plan to make TV programs of groups doing a live Bible study. These shows could be viewed on our satellite TV channel, on the Internet through YouTube, or as video on demand on our website. 

Finally, group leaders could commit to memory the main skeleton of each study in the First Principles—the passage and topic in question, the key discussion questions, and the key points of the readings. 

AND THEN THERE’S NO BUILDING 

Another major hurdle North African churches face is the closure of their buildings. For this reason, the main subject of our 2nd annual DDK Network North Africa conference, set for June 2-6 in Tunisia, will be helping churches learn to function as complex networks of house churches. 

Forty leaders from several countries plan to attend. We pray they will be free to do so, and that together, we can follow the example of the early church, carrying on in spite of challenges. 

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Mauritanian believers encouraged

This month we heard from a team of three men in our follow-up network in Mauritania. Traveling from the Sahara to the seaside, they located fellow believers, ministered to them, and encouraged them to stand up for their faith. 

Wedged between Western Sahara and Mali, Algeria and Guinea, Mauritania is a country marked by “high persecution” of Christians, according to Open Doors’ World Watch Map. This is why our follow-up teams go right to their brothers and sisters, carrying love and hope and encouragement to those living for Christ amidst intense challenges. 

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It’s music to our ears

“Music in North Africa is one main art form that expresses the life and the stories and the culture. North Africa being an oral communication society, we identify, teach, and pass on traditions through songs. Hymns like the ones we hear emanate from the heart, awak-en the soul, and give hope and joy to the weary. The words of the Lord Jesus with a local North African melody makes Jesus and the gospel close to the culture and to people’s hearts.” – Ali Arhab, CEO of CNA 

During May a group of Kabyle and Arab Christians gathered amid microphones and bright lights in a studio in Fort National, Algeria, to record two music videos that will be aired on CNA in August. Lead singers Massi and Malika headed a band of instrumentalists and back-up vocalists delivering a uniquely North African sound. 

These musicians have all created their own CDs while also serving in their respective churches. Arezki was on hand to oversee the taping at a studio owned by Djamel, one of the leaders of our DDK network. “The purpose of this music,” Arezki said, “is to encourage both Christian and non-Christian viewers to discover Christian worship songs.” 

In the US, Christians often take for granted their easy access to Christian music in their own language and style. But for North African believers, hearing their own music conveying the truth of Christ brings deep joy and excitement. These are the songs believers will hum and sing to them-selves or in their churches. 

And for a non-believer who tunes into CNA by “divine accident,” the beautiful music can hold their attention long enough for the words to reach their hearts. 

Our goal is to produce 12 video clips altogether with these talented musicians. Two videos were filmed, and four more are scheduled. 

Now we pray the Lord will provide the funding to finish the second half of the task. 

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Joint meetings unite CNA’s French and US boards

In spite of transportation strikes and unseasonable rainstorms, 4 members of our France board of directors and 6 members of our US board met at CNA headquarters to increase unity across their varied functions.

The French board presented their refined vision and missionstatements for the organization, as well as valuable insights into ministry to North Africans.

The American board took home a greater understanding of the challenges faced by those we serve: North African Christians and churches, living both in their homelands and asexpatriates.

With an opportunity to see our building and review our plans for remodeling, the US board glimpsed what we envision developing in three phases: our own on-site studio to trim production time and expenses,a multi-use conference space for training visiting North African leaders as well as hosting local church services, and additional offices for our follow-up work and related research.

This is an exciting time to be poised to maximize the potential of the building the Lord gave us three years ago.

As our North African brothers and sisters beg for more broadcasts to help them learn to follow Jesus, we stand on the brink of being able to answer their cries for help.

“I believe there are more Christians than we know [in North Africa] who do not dare speak up.” -CNA board member after ministering in Algeria 

As one of our board members who frequently ministers in North Africa pointed out, CNA’s satellite broadcastsare reaching people no one else can—among them women, who are often confined to the home and have fewer opportunities to meet with believers.

By providing organizational leadership and building bridges to potential supporters, our boards will work together to strengthenthis ministry moving into the future.

May the Lord guide and bless our efforts to broadcast the good news of Jesus Christ in people’s heart languages, connect them with local church families, and equip them to grow as disciples.