By Melissa Wuske
Growth of Churches in Iran
Today there are anywhere from 300,000 to 1 million Christians in Iran, a dramatic increase over the 2,000 to 5,000 believers in the country two decades ago. One account says that late last year, 200 Iranians and Afghans were baptized during a single service.
“According to our contacts in Iran, the house church movement is seeing astounding growth. This is despite the intense persecution the house church movement faces from the government,” said William Stark of International Christian Concern.
Mark Howard of Elam Ministries shared a similar hope: “Every day we have many coming to the Lord. If you give a starving person food and water, they will want to share it. That’s what they find in Jesus. They are so hungry and thirsty for the truth. They are experiencing it in a powerful way. When they do, they want to share it with others.”
While the movement is changing the nation, it’s also having an effect on the lives of individuals. “I never thought I would find freedom from my past, but Jesus has set me free,” said one new believer.
Addiction in America
United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a report last November about addiction in America. “An estimated 20.8 million people in our country are living with a substance use disorder,” said Murthy. “This is . . . 1.5 times the number of people who have all cancers combined.”
Murthy’s report shows that new ways of viewing these disorders are needed to solve the problem. “For far too long people have thought about substance abuse disorders as a disease of choice, a character flaw, or a moral failing. We underestimated how exposure to addictive substances can lead to full blown addiction,” he said. “Now we understand that these disorders actually change the circuitry in your brain. They affect your ability to make decisions, and change your reward system and your stress response. That tells us that addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, and we need to treat it with the same urgency and compassion that we do with any other illness.”
Today’s online economy makes it easier than ever for Americans to earn income outside of traditional jobs. Eight percent of adults, according to Pew Research, have used an online platform to earn money for a job or task, and 18 percent have earned money by selling items online. Of those who earned money online, more than half (56 percent) say that income is essential or important to their overall income; 36 percent of these online earners also have full-time employment, and nearly half (45 percent) cite the need to control their schedule as a primary motivator for taking on this kind of work.
Specialized Unit Fights ISIS
The women of the Yazidis ethnic group are one of the groups trageted by ISIS as sex slaves. But now, the Shingal [Singjar] Women’s Units (YSJ), an all-female group of Kurdish fighters, is fighting against ISIS and rescuing Yazidis and other women held by the terrorist organization.
“We have not forgotten those Yazidi women sold in [the slave] markets of Mosul or burned alive,” the YSJ leadership said. “We know that the people ISIS holds . . . are waiting for us to rescue them. We will not stop until we liberate our women and take revenge.”
The all-female militias have a particular effectiveness. “I think [they] were more afraid of us than of the men,” said Tekoshin, a female Kurdish fighter. “They believe they’ll go to Hell if they die at a woman’s hands.”
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, live and minister in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Find her work online (melissaannewuske.com).