Breaking the Cycle of Generational Poverty

April 16th, 2015

One of the most transformative aspects of our child sponsorship program is that every child we care for is given the same opportunities we’d want our own sons and daughters to have — which means that for every one of our kids who passes the Higher Secondary Examination and enrolls in an accredited college or university, we gladly pay his or her way through school.

vn_group_shot_8_bThis academic year, ten kids from our child sponsorship program were enrolled in college, and we’re elated that three of them will graduate this month.

Satyanarayana and Shilpa will receive degrees in engineering, and John Babu has worked hard to finish all the requirements for his degree in theology. You may remember John’s story, or perhaps you’ve watched the video in which he talks about his desire to bring the Good News of Jesus to India’s rural villages.

For children who are born into a cycle of generational poverty, education is a lifeline. It unlocks the door of opportunity and imbues a child with hope, which is why we’re so passionate about providing the gift of education to at-risk children. There’s just so much potential waiting to be developed and unleashed.

We are so proud of John, Satyanarayana, and Shilpa. They’ve inspired us with their grit and determination, overcoming challenges and adversity and trusting God through it all. As they complete their educational journey, we are reminded that God, through the generosity of His people, has made it possible. Above all, we give Him thanks for allowing us to care for, educate, and empower hundreds of at-risk children over the last seventeen years. The stories of life-change never grow old.

As you have opportunity, ask God to bless the children in our care, more than ten percent of whom are currently enrolled in college. And if you have the means to do so, consider making a contribution to the Master’s Fund. Every dollar helps, especially as the costs associated with providing a higher education rise.

Finally, take a moment to watch this video, which explains more about how we care for kids.


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April Prayer Points

April 6th, 2015

april_prayer_letterHave you had a chance to read Answers to Prayer from George Müller’s Narratives? It is a remarkable testament to faith, providing a rare glimpse into what it looks like for a human being to live in total reliance on God. Rare is the book that encourages such radical dependence on the Father. Rarer still is the humility that Mr. Müller conveys throughout Answers to Prayer. Here is a man who uses every word he writes to point people to God and to the “loving interest which our kind Father takes in everything that concerns us.”

If you find your faith waning, you should read Answers to Prayer. It will embolden you, I’m sure.

One excerpt I found particularly helpful, especially given all the challenges we’re facing in India, is from 1842. Mr. Müller writes, “…yet all believers are called upon, in the simple confidence of faith, to cast all their burdens upon Him, to trust in Him for everything, and not only to make everything a subject of prayer, but to expect answers to their petitions which they have asked according to His will, and in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

As we enter our 23rd year of ministry, we are reminded, thanks to Mr. Müller, that “the simple confidence of faith,” which is itself a gift from God, is all that’s required. There’s no need to complicate things. As we “trust in Him for everything” and “make everything a subject of prayer,” God answers us according to His will.

THIS MONTH PLEASE PRAY FOR…

Pastor Prasadha Rao. For the last five years this dear brother has been critically ill. His wife has been his primary caregiver, and his sons, both of whom are pastors, have been carrying on the work their father started. This family is an important part of our church planting ministry. Please ask God to heal Pastor Prasadha, to strengthen his precious wife, and to empower his two sons as they extend the kingdom of God in Andhra Pradesh.

The construction of new churches. This month we will open three new church buildings in Andhra Pradesh. The first building is in the village of Revanuru; the other two buildings are in Srikakulam District. Pray for Pastors Anjaneyulu, Sankara Rao, and Gopal, their families, and their churches as they prepare for the dedication of these new buildings. Pray, too, that each new church building we erect becomes a place where people from the surrounding community can encounter the risen Christ.

Master’s School. Our high school students are in the midst of writing their final exams. Their vocational futures rest on their test results. Pray for this group of 19 students as they complete the testing and prepare for the next step in their educational journey. This is such an important week for them.

Favor with the local government. Earlier this year the local government made a unilateral decision to increase our property taxes by sixteen hundred percent, an exorbitant figure that was determined arbitrarily and feels to us like extortion. We are in the process of appealing this decision. As we talk and negotiate with city officials, please ask God to make them favorably disposed towards us. It can be a very difficult process, and we have no guarantees that they will rule in our favor.

Our ministry to children. This year ten kids from our child sponsorship program were enrolled in college, and we are elated that three of them will graduate this month. Satyannarayana and Shilpa will receive degrees in engineering, and John Babu has worked hard to finish all the requirements for his degree in theology. Please ask God to bless our kids, each of whom is afforded the opportunity to receive an education. By God’s grace, we look forward to caring for, educating, and empowering hundreds more children in the coming years.

Joey and Yisel Zorina. The Zorinas are in the early stages of planting a church in the world’s most populous city, Tokyo. Continue to pray for them as they proclaim and demonstrate the Good News of Jesus among the second-largest unreached people group in the world. Pray, too, that the Gospel will take root and grow in the hearts and lives of those who participate in their weekly home meetings and an upcoming outreach event on Saturday, June 6.

The wisdom and strength to carry out our mission. With growth comes challenges, and we are certainly experiencing our fair share of them. More than anything else, we are desperate for God’s empowering presence, for the wisdom and wherewithal to carry out our mission.

It’s not often that I finish a prayer letter by asking you to pray for my family, but this month, especially, we need your prayers. With all that’s going on throughout our network of ministries, we are sometimes overwhelmed. There are so many needs, so many decisions, so many demands on our time. As you have opportunity, please say a prayer for Raji and me. Thank you.


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Church Planting in the World’s Most Populous City

April 1st, 2015

As part of our Ten Thousand Churches initiative, Joey and Yisel Zorina are in the early stages of planting a church in Tokyo, Japan. It’s our hope that after reading this post and catching a glimpse of what God is doing through the Zorinas, you’ll begin praying and giving so that they can establish a vibrant, Gospel-centered church in Tokyo.

*****

The Bridge Live Event

The Bridge Live Event — March 8, 2015

One non-Christian, first-time visitor who came to our house meeting asked us, “Though I am not a Christian, can I still be part of the family?” In a nation where many have not even heard of the name of Christ, our hearts leap with hope and joy when people ask us innocent questions like this one. In a culture where truth is relative, Japanese people prioritize relationship-based unity over truth-based unity. Also, many young people remain fatherless because many fathers are emotionally and physically aloof due to their commitment to corporate job demands. Hence, many young people are looking for communities where they feel welcomed and where they are given a sense of belonging.

Thank you for praying for our home gatherings and previous events.

  1. After The Bridge Live event held on March 8, we had a lot of encouragements from all the people and leaders that were present. We thank God for making the event successful.
  2. There is a greater sense of camaraderie among Gospel-centered church planters, some of whom were present to encourage us at this event.
  3. It was a joy to collaborate with the 2Criminals Movie staff, including former mafia Shinada Kazutomi, who shared his life-changing story at The Bridge Live event. He brought his Japanese mafia friend who later showed interest in the Christian faith. Praise God.
  4. We had great support from Christian friends in Tokyo by their physical presence. And there was greater receptivity of the Gospel among non-Christians. It’s always a joy to hear how people show interest in learning more about Jesus.
  5. We are so blessed to see a growing number of both Christian and non-Christian volunteers.
  6. New younger leaders are taking on more responsibility as they are growing in the Gospel.
  7. Please continue to pray for God to raise up a healthy team. Please pray for our Easter program on April 5, our home gatherings, and another The Bridge Live event on June 6. We are praying that many will respond to the Gospel and come to the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior.

As always, feel free to write to us — a note letting us know that you’re praying for us is a huge encouragement. You can also connect with us on Facebook and learn more about what we’re doing in Tokyo by visiting our website. If you would like to receive email updates please sign up for our monthly newsletters and forward it to others you think might be interested. Thank you so much for your prayers and support.


If you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation to support the Zorina’s work in Tokyo, you can do so via our online giving page. When prompted, simply choose “Zorina Support” from the drop-down menu.

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Cyclone Relief Impact Report

March 12th, 2015

On Sunday, October 12, 2014, Cyclone Hudhud made landfall on India’s eastern coast. Vizag, which is where our ministry is headquartered, was hit hard. Though we didn’t have any immediate reports of injury or loss of life within our network of ministries, the cyclone, with winds in excess of 150 mph, tore through our city — destroying homes and buildings, toppling trees and power lines, blocking roads, and displacing thousands of people. According to Indian officials, Vizag would need to be entirely rebuilt.

Cyclone Relief Impact ReportI was in Vizag just 3 weeks after the cyclone hit. Piles of debris were everywhere. The airport was destroyed. And Arjuna and his team were still receiving reports of churches and homes damaged by the storm. Vizag, usually lush with tropical vegetation, lost thousands of trees, and fallen utility poles were stacked like toothpicks on the side of the road. It was a scene right out of a movie. By the time I left India, I had a much better understanding of the burden Arjuna carried as he dealt with the fallout of one of the worst natural disasters Vizag and the surrounding region had ever experienced.

Since then, what’s been accomplished has been nothing short of amazing.

Today, on the five-month anniversary of the storm, we’re thrilled to release our Cyclone Relief Impact Report, which provides a visual overview of our recovery efforts. While there’s still one or two small projects waiting to be finished, the bulk of our work is done. Friends of Vision Nationals gave generously to the Cyclone Relief Fund, which allowed us to provide aid to hundreds of people, resulting in at least 2,000 people being helped, directly or indirectly, in the months following the storm.

God has been so good to Vision Nationals, and this report is our way of gratefully acknowledging His hand in our work — none of this would be possible apart from Him. But our gratitude also extends to all those who love and care about our ministry and the precious people we serve. In the aftermath of the storm, it was your prayers and financial gifts that made our relief and recovery efforts possible.


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March Prayer Points

March 4th, 2015

Thank you for taking the time and effort to stand with us in prayer for the needs of Vision Nationals. Yours may be an unseen role, but it is critically important to the continuing success of our ministry.

Apart from God hearing and answering the persistent, believing prayers of His people, there’s really no way to account for all that God has done during our 23-year history. It is true, just as James said it was, that the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

THIS MONTH, PLEASE PRAY FOR…

The youth of our churches. Though much has been written and said about India becoming the youngest country in the world by 2020, we are seeing the effects of that demographic change firsthand. So just a few weeks ago we convened a youth summit, the first of its kind, for our churches in Vizag. Sixty-five teenagers joined us for a day devoted entirely to encouraging them in their faith. The response was extraordinary. God began a great work in many of their hearts, and we continue to hear stories of just how impactful the event was. Pray for our youth. They are the future leaders of India, and we thank God for the opportunity to influence them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The construction of new churches. There are two church buildings currently under construction, with plans to break ground on at least a dozen more in 2015. Pray that God will provide the financial resources we need to build these new facilities. Our hope and prayer is that each new building we erect becomes a place where people can encounter the risen Christ.

Our Tokyo-based partners, Joey and Yisel Zorina. Joey and Yisel are in the early stages of planting a church in Japan’s largest city. Pray for them as they endeavor to proclaim and demonstrate the Good News of Jesus among the Japanese, the second-largest unreached people group in the world. And pray that the Gospel will take root and grow in the hearts and lives of those who participate in their upcoming outreach events on March 8, April 5, and June 6.

The nationals we train and educate. Through Master’s College of Theology, week-long conferences, and regional training events, we equip hundreds of men and women for ministry every year. And for more than two decades, God has graciously sustained this aspect of our work. As we prepare to make make some much-needed changes and improvements to our equipping ministry, please keep us in your prayers. We long for God to be glorified in all that we say and do.

Master’s Village. Though we’ve been involved in transforming the lives of children for almost 20 years, we know that our work is far from over, that God has more for us to do, and we are genuinely excited about what lies ahead. The God of orphans has not been silent. In fact, in recent months He’s been inviting us to expand our ministry to India’s vulnerable, abandoned, and orphaned children. Pray that we would continue to be responsive to His voice.

India. We consider it a great privilege to make disciples of Jesus Christ in this context, and we are so humbled that God has called us to serve Him here. Pray that God would be pleased to continue building His church through us. And please keep our pastors, their families, and their congregations in your prayers. They face many challenges as they extend God’s kingdom into the unreached areas of India.

Our church planting ministry. Every month new churches are forming in the states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Please pray that God will provide the resources needed to keep up with the demands of this ever-expanding branch of our ministry. And pray for our pastors and their families as they venture out in faith, bringing the Good News of Jesus to those who so desperately need to hear it. Our prayer is that in the months and years to come thousands will hear and respond to the Gospel as a result of their obedience.

Sudhakar, Ravi, and Prakash. After recent hospitalizations, Sudhakar, Ravi, and Prakash have all returned home, but they remain very sick. Please ask God to restore each of them to full health, and pray for their families as they care for them. Pray, too, for our churches and pastors as they minister to the needs of those who are sick and dying.

Our ministry to children. Right now there are ten children from our child sponsorship program enrolled in college. Three of them will be graduating in the next two months, two with degrees in engineering and one with a degree in theology. Please pray for our kids. Education is a lifeline for those trapped in poverty. Our prayer is that we would be in a position to care for, educate, and empower hundreds more children in the coming years.

The wisdom and strength to carry out our mission. As we continue to plant churches, train nationals, and care for the most vulnerable we are desperate for God’s empowering presence, for the wisdom and wherewithal to carry out our mission. Apart from Him we can do nothing. Join us in asking God for the strength we need to accomplish His will.

Let me just end this month’s prayer letter by saying thank you for your love and support. We couldn’t do what we do without you. We are humbled and grateful that you have chosen to partner with us.


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Why Japan? Why Not Japan.

March 2nd, 2015

As part of our Ten Thousand Churches initiative, Joey and Yisel Zorina are in the early stages of planting a church in Tokyo, Japan. We are thrilled to have them on board, and we can’t commend them to you highly enough. It is an honor for us to feature this post, written by Joey, here on our website. It is our hope that you’ll begin praying and giving so that Joey and Yisel can establish a vibrant, Gospel-centered church in Tokyo.

*****

tokyoA few days before I first set my foot on Japanese soil in September 2004, a friend of mine asked: “Why Japan?” In all honestly, I could barely give adequate answers apart from the fact that God had called me, and that I knew it intuitively, along with confirmations from His Word and affirmations from my church leaders. There’s no doubt that Japan is leading technologically and materially rich when compared to other countries, but the spiritual needs are often unseen. Like every country in the industrialized world Japan has its own share of social problems despite all of its advances in various fields. The truth is that Japanese people are made in the image of God, and they are the 2nd largest unreached people group in the world, with less than 1% of the total population Christian.

Tokyo is an influential major global strategic city.

It is estimated that 5.5 million people move into cities every month. By 2050, the world will be nearly 70% urban. People move into cities faster than churches do. And Tokyo is the world’s most populous metropolitan area. As of May 2014, it has a population of 13.35 million and is key to reaching the rest of Asia. Also, there are at least 25 unchurched cities in Japan, where there is not a single church serving as a lighthouse for those living in spiritual darkness (not to mention the smaller towns and inakas, or rural areas). Besides, Tokyo is a city center where people worship money, education, wealth and power. The Gospel is much needed in this great city.

Japan’s low birthrate, aging population and its future.

The ongoing aging and decreasing population in Japan could trigger profound changes. Over 25 percent of the Japanese population are now 65 years or older. And 20-year-olds this year made up only 0.99% of the population. That figure is hardly enough to meet the needs of the society and economy, much less keep up with the nation’s pension system. It is estimated that in 2025, 20-year-olds will make up only 0.88 percent of the population.

Chances are that the government may open up and allow large numbers of foreign workers to come to Japan. Meanwhile, if the relatively small but powerful ultra-nationalist groups gained control, Japan could possibly become very hostile to the Christian faith. If the ultra-nationalists group prevailed, legalized persecution of Christians could possibly return. Currently, missionaries can freely receive “religious visas” to work in Japan but this could change if the ultra-nationalists gained power. I agree with what a fellow missionary said that, “We need to prepare….[and] for the church to thrive in these conditions, we need a contextualized Gospel for Japan that is not perceived as ‘foreign’ to Japan….”

Suicide, hikikomori, overwork, and a pervasive sense of gloom.

The suicide rate for Japan is about 60 percent higher than the average globally. For more than a decade, 30,000 people committed suicide every year. Thankfully, over the last 3 years this number has dropped just slightly. But even with a modest drop in the suicide rate, today alone more than 70 people will take their own lives.

And suicide is now the leading cause of death among men aged 20-44 and women aged 15-34. While Tokyo certainly has the highest number of suicides due to its staggering population, Iwate Prefecture (affected by the triple disaster of 2011) recorded the highest rate in 2013. The most common reasons for suicide are divorce, debt and bankruptcy.

Beyond the staggering suicide rate, a recent poll by an online market research firm found out that of those turning 20 years old this year, only 34.4 percent felt optimistic about Japan’s future. Few know what they want to do for a living. It’s as if they’ve reached adulthood and their lives have stalled. Furthermore, there are approximately 1 million hikikomori (modern hermits or shut-ins) in Japan, representing at least 20% of all male adolescents, or 1% of the total population. Millions are socially withdrawn and spiritually lost.

Work, too, has become enormously burdensome. In some cases people die of karoshi, which is a Japanese term used to refer to people who die of exhaustion due to overwork. Though some measures have been taken to ensure that employers do not abuse their employees through overwork, we still hear horrendous stories of overwork from our people. The corporate demands can literally be life-threatening. Despite these pressures, we have great hopes for Japan in the power of the cross. As a veteran missionary friend wrote,

“Japan’s epic disaster in March of 2011 was a huge catalyst for change in relation to the Gospel. Due to the way thousands of Christian volunteers responded, the general perception of Christians became far more positive. The presence and spirit of Christian volunteers was noticed and much appreciated by survivors. Remarkably, almost 4 years later, many Christian volunteers continue to reach out to those affected by the disaster.”

Young people, especially, need to be reached with the Gospel.

The average age of a pastor in Japan is well over 60 years, and there is often no younger generations to replace them. Young people need older and godly men and women to lead them into adulthood. They need imperfect but godly Gospel-driven role models in the home, workplace, community and the church. Sadly, some churches have only about 10 members, and many do not have pastors. A church with more than 100 active members is considered a flourishing ministry. Due to the smallness of some churches, there is also lack of financial support for pastors from their congregations, and so pastors often have to work other jobs. Having another job in a hard working culture like Japan, where overwork is not uncommon, can be spiritually draining when coupled with the demands of pastoral ministry. A pastor friend, in another prefecture, had to do pulpit supply for a smaller church while pastoring his congregation. And a few years ago I had to fill in for one 80-year-old pastor, who was looking for a younger Japanese pastor to succeed him. But his successor turned out to be another older man only slightly younger than him. This is not uncommon in Japan.

TheBridgeHaving said all this, it is indeed an exciting time to serve in Tokyo. I work two-part time jobs, while leading our church plant, which is still at an early stage. The timeline and process for church planting in Japan are slower than in other countries due to the spiritual climate and hard cultural soil. Spiritual warfare is very real here, but our authority is in the name of Christ and in His Word. Our hope rests on the One who promised that He would build His Church — over which the gates of Hades shall not prevail (Matt. 16: 18). My wife Yisel is working full-time as a kindergarten teacher in a secular school. We’re grateful that four of her co-workers, including two managers, have also joined our community and are regularly hearing the Gospel. We currently have about 10 non-Christians coming regularly to our tiny apartment, and we are in touch with about 60 people more through our outreach events. Though the soil is hard, many have heard the Gospel and their responses have not been negative. Even those who are a little skeptical have not rejected our community or us. It is hard for a rich nation to enter the Kingdom of God, but with God all things are possible (Matt. 19: 23-26).

Would you please consider partnering with us with your prayers and monthly giving?  

  1. Please pray for our weekly home gathering where we share meals, open the Word, pray, worship and fellowship; and our life on life discipleship, etc…
  2. Please pray for The Bridge music outreach to Jazz musicians, their friends and families coming up on March 8th to commemorate the 4th anniversary of the 3/11 triple disaster.
  3. Please pray for The Bridge Easter gathering on April 5th and The Bridge Live on June 6th.
  4. Please pray for gospel-centered churches to come alongside us and partner with us.
  5. Please pray for more laborers to lay down their lives for the sake of the Gospel in Japan.
  6. Finally, please pray for the name of God to be glorified among the Japanese in Tokyo and beyond.

Feel free to write to us — a note letting us know that you’re praying for us is a huge encouragement. You can also connect with us on Facebook and learn more about what we’re doing in Tokyo by visiting our website. If you would like to receive email updates please sign up for our monthly newsletters and forward it to others you think might be interested. Thank you so much.


If you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation to support the Zorina’s work in Tokyo, you can do so via our online giving page. When prompted, simply choose “Zorina Support” from the drop-down menu.

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A Church for Kalvapalli

February 23rd, 2015

To date we’ve planted more than 500 churches in South Asia, and by God’s grace we hope to plant thousands more. We’ve also trained hundreds of pastors since our inception. Equipping indigenous leaders, many of whom are first-generation Christians, is in our DNA — it’s central to who we are. And we wholeheartedly embrace James’ definition of true religion and seek to practice it throughout our network of ministries.

If you were to distill Vision Nationals down to its essence what you’d find is a ministry committed to bringing the Gospel to the nations through the local church. We are a movement of first and second generation Christians eager to proclaim and demonstrate the Good News of Jesus among the least reached and least resourced people on earth.

It is not an easy thing to establish a church in a community with no known Christian presence. Many of our pastors experience varying degrees of hostility and opposition as they begin sharing the Gospel in a new place. It is not uncommon for the saving message of Jesus to be perceived as a threat. Stories of persecution, even martyrdom, have garnered international attention in one state where we work. Planting churches in a context like India is a challenging, rewarding, and sometimes dangerous endeavor, but the faith of our pastors compels them to make disciples no matter how difficult the circumstances.

Kalvapali Church

Kalvapalli Church Construction Site

One such pastor is Madhu Naik. Though he lives in a neighboring town with his wife and two young children, Madhu felt called by God to go to a nearby village called Kalvapalli. He began sharing the Gospel with villagers, and in a short amount of time dozens of people began to confess that Jesus is Lord. A church quickly grew around this confession, and before long there were more than 40 people worshipping Jesus every Sunday. It became clear that the congregation would need its own building, so Madhu approached us and asked for financial assistance so that he could begin building a church in the village. Moved by his story and his faithfulness, we quickly gave Madhu’s project the green light, and today a church is being built in Kalvapalli.

Now numbering more than 60 people, Kalvapalli Church continues to grow. It is our prayer that in the months and years to come their building will be filled to capacity and become a testament to God’s grace in the predominantly Hindu community in which it’s being built.

The exponential growth of our church planting ministry has created an extraordinary opportunity to give towards the building of new churches. In most cases, a new church, like the one being built in Kalvapalli, costs $5,000 to build. Typically the pastor oversees construction of the building, and the congregation makes a small, but sacrificial contribution towards the project. We are then able to provide a generous grant so that the building materials can be purchased and construction can commence. With more than 40 churches waiting to be built, your tax-deductible donation to the Church Building Support fund can make a huge difference on the ground.


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