Joseph Oulai is our Praise Representative in Cote d’Ivoire. He is a devout man of God, an ordained minister, committed to faithfully serving the Lord in evangelism, church-planting and church growth. And he’s an excellent husband and father.
It breaks my heart that their fourth child, Anne Victoire, has an arm that functions at only 40 percent. Especially when THIS CAN BE FIXED. But it is expensive. They had hoped it would correct itself with time, but it hasn’t. In order to give Anne full use of her arm, they will need about $2000 for the corrective treatment. Please consider giving the Oulai’s a very special Christmas gift this Christmas. A gift that will give this beautiful daughter the use of both arms for the rest of her life. Wouldn’t that be wonderful!
Please send gifts to: Praise International, P.O. Box 927, Caldwell, ID or send it via PayPal at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dick Shaw, Praise Chairman of the Board, and I just returned from a two-week ministry trip in Africa. We traveled from Conakry, Guinea to Bamako, Mali to experience the culture, to see how people live in these two countries, and most importantly, to meet as many evangelical pastors as possible and to support and encourage them. We can heartily say that we accomplished those goals.
We were profoundly touched by the great difficulties faced by these folks, as they live and work a world of extreme poverty. They seemed so humble, calmly accepting their way of life, experiencing without complaint the pains and hardships of day-to-day life. From our American perspective, spoiled by relatively extravagant comfort, even though we spent only a few days immersed in this culture, our temperament and coping skills were put to the test to the max! I’m terrible at timed-test. I’m not sure if I did well on this test. But I learned so much! God taught me so much!
These dear people live like this every single day! We went to Guinea and Mali in order to understand what pastors in Africa are up against, to verify that Praise International is indeed helping, and to inquire as to how we can do a better job. Wow! Do we ever understand things better now!
One of the very interesting things we learned about is the great significance that they attach to the kola nut. Yes, the kola nut. The kola tree is native to Guinea and a couple other countries in West Africa that have tropical rain forests. This caffeine-containing seed is used for drinks and for cooking. Yes, the original recipe for Coca-cola contained extracts from the Kola nut. It is also used as medicine. The chewing the nut (or ingesting it in some form or another) is known to improve a person’s digestive system, to increase the heart rate and to stimulate the blood circulation.
However, the kola nut has a much deeper significance. It is actually called, the nut of life. This nut is much more than a nut. In Guinea, the most life-changing events include a cultural, spiritual and ceremonial use of the nut of life. A man gives of a certain amount of kola nuts to the parents of the girl he wants to marry, somewhat like a dowry. At the birth of their baby, there is some sort of ceremony, which involves, I believe, the baby’s umbilical cord being wrapped permanently around a cola nut. The nut is also used at the christening of the child. It is used at the ceremonial signing of certain important documents. It is also used to honor an important person or to reward someone for accomplishments. There is also a kola nut ritual at the funeral.
Several times as Dick Shaw and I traveled to visit pastors, driving for miles on muddy, bumpy roads surrounded on both sides by thick jungle, we entered a tiny village full of round thatch-roofed huts and were invited into the dwelling where the pastor and his large family live. The small room is crowded with people such as church leaders, village councilmen, and maybe a village chief. We sit in a circle on hand-made wooden benches. Then there is a beautiful traditional welcome ceremony. One person in the circle has a small container with some kola nuts in it. This is past from person to person, each person taking his turn at expressing well-chosen words of welcome to us, their honored guests. When the cup of kola nuts was handed to us, we had the opportunity to thank them for their beautiful and meaningful welcome. And of course, this was one of our opportunities to honor the pastor and his family for the sacrificial work they are doing for the Lord.
For a couple of interesting reads, I suggest two articles.
Nepal Criminalizes Christian Conversion and Evangelism
President approves new sanctions targeting non-Hindus and foreign missionaries.
October 25, 2017 10:28 AM-Christianity Today
Last week, Nepal enacted a law to curb evangelism by criminalizing religious conversion, joining neighboring countries like India and Pakistan, where the region’s small-but-growing Christian minority faces government threats to their faith.
The “Nepali government [has] taken a regressive step as this law severely restricts our freedom of expression and our freedom of religion or belief,” said Tanka Subedi, chair of the national Religious Liberty Forum, to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). The pastor is 1 of an estimated 375,000 Christians living in the former Hindu kingdom.
The criminal code bill, which the parliament approved in August and President Bidhya Devi Bhandari signed last Monday, establishes further constitutional protections for Hinduism (which 80% of the population practices) by restricting religious conversion and “hurting of religious sentiment,” or blasphemy.
According to a Nepali Christian site, a section of the new law reads:
No one should involve or encourage in conversion of religion.
No one should convert a person from one religion to another religion or profess them own religion and belief with similar intention by using or not using any means of attraction and by disturbing religion or belief of any ethnic groups or community that being practiced since ancient times.
If found guilty; there will be punishment of five years of imprisonment and penalty of fifty thousand rupees [approximately $770 USD]. If foreigners are found guilty; they will have to be deported within seven days after completing the imprisonment in third clause.
The amended criminal sanctions come a decade after the longtime Hindu monarchy declared itself a secular state, and two years after it adopted a new constitution.
Article 26 of the constitution stated that, “No one shall attempt to change or convert someone from one religion to another, or disturb/jeopardize the religion of others, and such acts/activities shall be punishable by law.”
At the time, CT reported how religious freedom advocates worried that this line in particular could be used as “groundwork for future restrictions and discrimination.” The fears of Elijah Brown, chief of staff at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, and others have come true.
Last year, courts dropped charges against Christians accused of evangelizing to students in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Kathmandu, but the case was enough to raise concerns over the “forcible conversion” law.
CSW founder Mervyn Thomas noted that anti-conversion laws tend to target religious minorities and worsen religious tensions. He stated in a press release:
We urge the Nepali government to repeal this unjust law and amend Article 26 (3) of the constitution as they both curtail the right to freedom of religion or belief and undermine Nepal’s commitments under international law, a contradiction made even more striking as Nepal assumes its seat on the Human Rights Council.
Some Christian commentators on the criminal code bill initially declared it a worse threat to minority faiths than living under the officially Hindu state in the years before. The bill proposed “five years of imprisonment and a penalty of 50,000 rupees for anyone found guilty of converting a person from one religion to another.”
A Catholic human rights activist in Nepal wrote last year:
If the bill is passed, it’s feared that it will result in a situation worse than Pakistan’s blasphemy law — a type of bill that can be misinterpreted and misused by anyone wanting to make a false accusation against anyone else.
More locally, this bill would mean Nepal would revert to a worse state of affairs than the previous Panchayat System (1960-1990), which resulted in minority religious groups being persecuted by the state.
As CT previously reported, Christians were banned from living in Nepal prior to 1960. Over the following decades, “Christianity grew by 10 to 20 percent annually, especially among Dalits at the bottom of Hindu society, making Nepal one of Asia’s most stunning church growth stories.”
Despite the legal threats in recent years, Nepal has seen its Christian population triple over the past decade or so due to conversions. Popular folk singer Raju Pariyar joined the faith and was baptized in 2015. But Christians still make up just 1.4 percent of the 29 million residents.
The US State Department flagged anti-conversion and blasphemy laws as one of its biggest concerns for religious freedom globally, stating in 2012 that “such laws often violate freedoms of religion and expression and often are applied in a discriminatory manner.”