Hope Springs International

Lasting Change One Village at a Time

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What’s The Plot?

About God’s Word, “It is a very long story, with a complicated plot; and we are not, perhaps, very attentive readers.” –

C.S. Lewis, Miracles

“The mission was already under way before there was a church. There was a mission of God before there was a people of God. God is on a mission. The mission is already under way in the Garden. God didn’t lose Adam, but God is always coming, always seeking. People aren’t seekers, God is. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. As the Father sent the Son, so the Son sends us. We get to participate in what God is doing, His mission.” Carman Fowler

The Bible contains 66 books, filled with history, poetry, letters and stories. Seldom do we see that there is a theme, a plot running through these books. We study book by book; rarely look at it as a single book. Forty authors, over 1500 years. And while we know the ONE author, we don’t treat any other book like the Bible.

Genesis 1-11 covers the creation of the world and the first humans, Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were to reflect God’s character (made in His image) and as such were to be God’s representative of His rule over all creation bringing about this new creation’s potential through their rule.

By the time we reach chapter 3, we see man’s fall from grace and banishment from the Garden of Eden. From this point on, there is a spiral downward because of sin. Chapter 4 tells us Cain kills his brother Abel, and the story of Noah and the flood follows in chapters 6-9. The story of the tower of Babel is covered in chapter 10-11. In all these stories we see sin, God’s judgment and the hope of redemption. This is a theme we will see repeated throughout the rest of scripture.

God gives us insight to the plot of the book in Genesis 3:15. After God tells the serpent and Adam and Eve about how life is about to change, He says this, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” In this short verse God gives Satan a picture of his end, and the hope of redemption to Adam and Eve. You have the conclusion of the book pictured here in the beginning of the book.

Have you ever wondered how the Tower of Babel story fits into this theme? I have always thought that this story was just a great example of the pride of building a tower to man’s glory and not God’s. But I think that the real answer is their statement of their own intent. “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). God’s intent and purpose for man in the beginning was: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…” (Genesis 1:28). God’s purpose and intent was for His image and His glory to be spread over all the earth, so God introduced the variety of languages causing the development of nations over all the earth. Genesis chapter 10 gives the genealogy of the descendants of Noah. Note verse 32, “These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.”

In the same way that Shem was given as a replacement for Abel, God is continuing to orchestrate His rescue story and purpose. God, by confusing and creating multiple languages, also created all the nations. In Chapter 12 God makes a promise to Abraham that through his descendants he would bless all nations (ethna-nations), same term used by Jesus in the Great Commission). The rest of the book is about God carrying out His redemptive purpose. It is the context of the rest of the Bible.

Psalm 67:1-5, May God be gracious to us and bless us
  and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
2that your way may be known on earth,
  your saving power among all nations.
3Let the peoples praise you, O God;
  let all the peoples praise you!

4Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
  for you judge the peoples with equity
  and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
5Let the peoples praise you, O God;
  let all the peoples praise you!

See also Psalm 72:17, 19; Psalm 96; Psalm 113:3; Isaiah 56:7.

If you miss the themes in the plot, you will only apply these things to yourself. We would never do that with any other book.

Illustration: God chooses Israel to be His people. Why?

Exodus 19:1-5 They were His people because of His love for the nations.

In I Peter 2:9ff, he uses four phrases from the Mosaic covenant. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.10Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” It was their (Israel’s) purpose and it is now our purpose.

We were not just saved to go to heaven; we are saved to be part of God’s mission for our neighbors and the nations of the world.

Look closely at the prayer of Jesus as He prepares the disciples for a future without Him.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,21that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.22The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,23I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:20-23. The unity or oneness here is not perfection in doctrine, but perfection in following God’s purpose, design and intent that the nations would come to know Him and worship Him.

Mission is not just something for “others” to do; it is our purpose for existence. If we are not actively involved in His mission, we are living in disobedience. Some of the most sobering words to me in scripture about what it means to be a disciple of Christ are found in II Corinthians 5:14-15, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;15and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Guilt motivation will never accomplish the will of God; it must be a relationship. When Christ died for all, and all died to themselves, then the rest of their life is not for themselves, but for Christ.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
  I will be exalted among the nations,
  I will be exalted in the earth!”

This is OUR reason for existence. So, how are we doing? That we will look at next time.

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Great Commission…What’s that?

Would it surprise you to know that only half of U.S. churchgoers recognize the term “Great Commission”?

When asked if they had previously “heard of the Great Commission,” 51% of U.S. churchgoers said they do not know this term. This question was posed in a recent survey by Barna in partnership with Seed Company. The report continued by saying, “It would be reassuring to assume the other half who know the term are also actually familiar with the passage known by this name, but that proportion is low (17%).

Meanwhile, “the Great Commission” does ring a bell for one in four (25%), though they can’t remember what it is. Six percent of churchgoers are simply not sure whether they have heard this term “the Great Commission” before.” Translating the Great Commission

Go with me for a moment to that mountain outside of Galilee. Some believe it may have been the same mountain where Jesus first selected the disciples. The scripture says, “when they saw Him, they worshiped Him, but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17). The disciples met Jesus there at His request, but they are still confused about the true nature of the Kingdom Jesus had come to establish (Acts 1:1ff). So much happened over the last few weeks that it is hard for them to take it all in. They are still filled with so many questions.

Jesus is standing before the disciples in His resurrected body. In plain sight are the nail-scarred hands that held Him to the cross. Those hands had become a familiar sight over the last 40 days as he appeared to them from time to time. But now, with His mission completed He is ready to depart and return to the Father. Last words are immortalized often when people die, but these last words are from the resurrected Son of God who has defeated death and overcome the grave.

He begins by saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (verse 18). You don’t question the authority of One who can come back from the dead and walk through walls. So, what He says next has all the power of heaven behind it.

“Go therefore.” The “Go” literally means “as you go”; “therefore” because of the authority He has. The command to go is powered by all the authority of heaven and earth. The participle conveys a continuous action that is already happening right now, but that also continues to happen into the future. So, the idea is more like… “As you’re going along in your life.” Wherever you go, discipleship is a part of your life here or wherever the commission of God may send you.

“Make disciples.” As His disciples He was their Rabbi and their very aim in life as a disciple was to be just like their Rabbi, even to the point of saying things like He would say them. They were to embody the teaching of their Master, not just have knowledge of it. Jesus told the disciples that people would know they were His disciples by how they loved each other (John 13:35). Now Jesus is commissioning them as they go throughout the world to disciple others as they had been discipled. It is a process of multiplication. Disciples make disciples who make disciples.

“Of all nations.” Literally ethnic-specific units (ethne= nations). We are talking about every tribe and language on the face of the earth. Without Jesus, they are lost. The message is to not leave anyone out. Jesus was not trying to establish a new Jewish sect. His message was for all people everywhere.

“Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism was to picture a transformed life of one who had died to self, was buried in water symbolizing physical burial and then resurrected to walk a new life of service to Jesus. Disciples were to no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them. Their life from this point forward was to glorify Christ.

“Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” The teaching is more than just imparting knowledge. This is not a trivia contest to see who can answer all the questions correctly. The end goal is obedience. Our faith in Christ is not just fire insurance, but a walk with Christ and a process of being transformed into His likeness in all that we do (Colossians 3:17).

“I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The One who gave the commission is also going with us. Not in the flesh as with the original disciples, but His presence is “IN” us through the Holy Spirit that he gave us (John 14:17).

So today we can go forth with the same authority as we share the most important message of all time. There are no boundaries, for everyone in the world needs this message desperately. This is what makes it “The Great Commission.”

These comments will seem familiar to some who read this, but if you are a part of the 51%, maybe, just maybe, this will become your personal great commission to take this message to your world, your ethnic group, tribe or tongue. But it is also a commission to take this message to those who are not like your group, tribe, or tongue. Disciples make disciples wherever they go.

“We have an incomprehensibly great God who has looked upon a sinfully depraved people and sent a scandalously merciful Savior, and as a result, we have an indescribably urgent mission” (Radical, by David Platt).

Each of the Gospel writers states the commission in his own words and understanding.

The Commission Modeled: “As the Father has sent me…” John 20:21

The Commission’s Magnitude: “go into all the world… to the whole creation” Mark 16:15

The Commission’s Methodology: “…make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28:18-20

The Commission’s Message: “…repentance and forgiveness of sins…” Luke 24:44-49

The Commission’s Means: “you will receive power…” Acts 1:8

Maybe one of the reasons the “Great Commission” is not better known and understood is that we seldom see people live out God’s heart for the nations. So before moving on I want to go back to the beginning and see that God’s eternal intention has always been to reach all the world. We will do that next time.

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How Does the Church Change the World?

I am old and so are some of my memories. Back in the ‘70s when I first began going on campaigns to Ghana, West Africa, there were reports of a lot of baptisms. While the numbers made for successful reports to churches back home, most of those so-called converts were sadly never seen again. There is also the possibility they were given a false feeling of security from saying yes to something they did not understand.

A similar thing happens even today when we focus on making “converts” and not making disciples. Jesus never sent us to make converts, but disciples, and there is a big difference. Here is a quote that sums up the problem very well:

“In the United States and around the world, leaders sometimes say, ‘Our greatest problem here [in this country] is that the church is miles wide and inches deep.’ Obedience to the Great Commission suffers because nominal Christians, who have been momentarily ‘converted,’ do not grow in integrity or character or biblical knowledge or Christian living. These superficial decisions are not necessarily integrated into the way they live, treat their spouses, operate in their community or participate in business and politics” (from the book Western Christians in Global Missions by Paul Borthwick).

In an article entitled “No One Likes the Product,” Mike Glenn explains why today’s generation, and past and future generations for that matter, are not buying into the Christianity they see. “Because of what they see every day in the lives of those who proclaim to be Christian. Rarely can people remember an encounter with a Christian who was kind and loving. Everyone, on the other hand, has a story about a Christian who was rude and condescending. Many of us who are Christians won’t use the word anymore because it has become associated with attitudes of bigotry, hatefulness and judgment. We introduce ourselves now as ‘Christ-followers.’

“No one wants to be a Christian these days. The word is almost an insult in polite conversation.” https://www.christianitytoday.com/scot-mcknight/2021/september/no-one-likes-product.html

When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He was starting a movement. When people came to Jesus, He minced no words when it came to His expectations of His followers. “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’ ” Luke 9:23. Crosses today are worn as jewelry and placed on the walls in our homes, but you would never have done this in the first century. Crosses were a symbol of the most heinous form of torture and death known at that time. It would be like wearing a miniature electric chair around your neck. Or hanging an electric chair on your wall. When I “take up my cross” it is a picture of my death to self that Christ might live through me.

Jesus was calling people to love Him with a love that surpasses all other loves. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26, 27 (emphasis mine). Jesus says our love for Him must surpass love for the closest people to us on earth; in fact your love for Him makes your love for those relationships look like hate in comparison. Stop for a moment, read that again and reflect on what Jesus said.

You and I don’t determine if we can be His disciple; Jesus does that. Remember we are part of a movement that He started. It won’t be easy, and He makes that abundantly clear in many places with many illustrations.

I have been reading recently about the lives of early 18th and 19th century missionaries. One common thread running through all their stories is their commitment unto death, to take the Gospel to areas of our world that had not heard of Christ regardless of the consequence to their own lives. One of those stories was about Adoniram Judson. His commitment to Christ is humbling and inspiring.

Adoniram lived from 1788-1850 and was a missionary to Burma for almost 40 years. Before he left for the mission field, he fell in love with a lady named Ann Hasseltine. Knowing the hardships that were ahead of them, Adoniram wrote a letter to Ann’s father asking for her hand in marriage. Take just a moment and slowly read this letter.

“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world? Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall resound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?” Wow, can you imagine getting that letter asking for your daughter’s hand in marriage?

Ann’s father did give his consent, and many of the things mentioned in his letter were fulfilled in the lives of this couple. Ann had three pregnancies. The first ended in a miscarriage while moving from India to Burma; her second child, Roger, was born in 1815 and died at 8 months of age; her third child, Maria, lived only 6 months after Ann herself died in 1826 of smallpox. Adoniram Judson lost two wives and six of his 13 children on the mission field. Ann and Adoniram suffered through many other trials while serving as missionaries. They left their homes and their family to spread the glory of God to an unreached people.

Ultimately, their sacrifice yielded much fruit. While Judson only had 18 converts after 12 years of work, when he died he left 100 churches and more than 8,000 believers. He was making disciples, who made disciples. Today we can see the results of his work since there are 2.5 million evangelical Christians in Burma (modern day Myanmar).

Judson also wrote a grammar of the language that is still used today, and he translated the entire Bible into Burmese, which took him 24 years to complete.

It is amazing what can transpire in our lives when we realize the seriousness of the commission that Jesus gave. We call it a “Great Commission” for several reasons. The one who gave it. The importance of the mission, salvation of souls. And the urgency of it, because so many people who face a Christless grave have yet to hear. Maybe it is time we took another look at “The Great Commission.” We will do that next time.

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Global Missions…How Things Have Changed!

By Lee Hodges

Global missions have been in my heart and mind since I was a teenager. I remember being moved with a passion and concern for the lost when missionaries visited my home church and told how God was using them to bring people to Christ. Missionaries became my heroes. They were my early motivation for becoming a minister.

A major turning point in my life came from reading the books written by Elizabeth Elliott about the work of her husband and four other young missionaries. These brave souls were determined to bring Christ to the jungles of South America only to be killed by those they came to reach. “The rest of the story” reveals some of the very men who killed these missionaries were eventually brought to faith in Christ.

I was also encouraged and motivated reading about the lives of missionary pioneers from Europe in the 19th century. Many of them packed and shipped their belonging in coffins because they knew they would die where they were going.

“Some estimate that 70% of the world’s Bible-believing Christians (as opposed to nominal or cultural Christians) now live in the Majority World (those outside of North America).”

Paul Borthwick

This kind of story and testimony is rarely heard today, but the work of missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries was so critically important. Paul Borthwick in his new book “Western Christians in Global Mission: What’s the Role of the North American Church?” says “Some estimate that 70% of the world’s Bible-believing Christians (as opposed to nominal or cultural Christians) now live in the Majority World (those outside of North America).” Those early missionaries who put their lives on the line for the Gospel of Christ planted the seeds for the harvest going on in the Majority World today.

While this is exciting, it is not a complete picture as there is still so much to be done. Almost 3 billion people made in the image of God are destined for a Christless grave having never heard about Him or His death on a cross for them. What makes this picture even more sad is the USA, which followed those 19th century missionaries with a strong missions emphasis after World War II, has significantly decreased in sending missionaries within the last 20+ years. We have seen an inward trend of “Let’s fix America first.” While no one today would question the validity of reaching people in America, we still must never lose sight of the vision God has for the entire world to hear the Good News.

The church’s mission should never become a choice of us OR them, but should always be us AND them. The first Christians made a similar mistake. Even though Jesus’ words were intended to send them into all the world, the early disciples didn’t want to leave Jerusalem. It took a period of persecution to move them out of their reluctance to leave the familiar and comfortable.

Today the USA is presented with wonderful opportunities at home and abroad. We may not have gone to all the world, so God is sending the world to us. Now the mission field is in our back yard, as new immigrants are our neighbors who have connections around the world.

It is also interesting that the countries where early seeds were planted by mission efforts in the past are now sending missionaries to the USA because they are concerned that we have lost sight of the mission we first shared with them. A book titled “Word Made Global: Stories of African Christianity in New York City” features a specific case study of African church plants based in New York City from churches out of Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria. The Redeemed Christian Church of God in Nigeria has already planted 500 churches across North America.

“The Redeemer Christian Church of God in Nigeria has already planted 500 churches across North America.”

“Word Made Global: Stories of African Christianity in New York City”

While some might think “we can’t do both local and foreign,” let me share another quote from Paul Borthwick’s book mentioned above: “Most of us are living on an island of affluence in the sea of poverty. We fail to realize this because we think that everyone else around us is more affluent. So we often think of ourselves as ‘poor,’ failing to remember our relative position in this globalized world” (page 26).

Our challenges in following the commission of Jesus to carry the Good News to all the world are not financial. God has provided us with everything we need to do what He has commissioned us to do. Ours is a faith and trust issue. When we deal with those issues, then we will join Christians in the rest of the world to accomplish the vision of God.

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9, 10). God’s vision fulfilled is that all people hear the Good News! We may pray, “Come quickly Lord Jesus,” but not until all hear! There is work to be done, souls to be saved, that God might receive glory for the gift of His Son. How could we hold such a priceless gift and not share it with those who have never heard?

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A Gifted Couple Reaching the Unreached in Niger

When Ayouba Moussa first contacted Hope Springs about the work that he and his wife Sirleide were doing in Niger I felt this contact was different from the many we receive from time to time. The more I learned, the more I felt that God wanted us to help in some way. Over the next few months, we learned of the great need for a health center in support of the work they were doing with close to a thousand children. When we shared information about this great work and their need for the health center our donors step up and not only funded the construction of the health center, but also the furnishings for the center as well.

The more I learn about Ayouba and Sirleide, the more I see how they are uniquely suited for this work.

Ayouba comes from a Christian home. In 2007 he entered mission training with (YWAM) Youth With A Mission in the capital city of Niamey, Niger. By 2010 he was added to the staff at the Discipleship Training School. That same year Sirleide moved from her home country of Brazil to serve as a missionary in the city of Niamey. YWAM organized a youth camp for the city of Maradi, a large city almost 700 miles away. Ayouba was selected to do the Discipleship Training at the camp. A friend of Sirleide who was working with the camp invited her to come along.

While at the camp Ayouba and Sirleide became close friends and discussed the great need of his home village of Soura very near Maradi. It soon became obvious they had much in common, as they both had such a strong desire to work with children.

After returning from the camp both Ayouba and Sirleide spent the next 6 months seeking God’s leading and would decide to get married in January of 2011 and then began making their plans to move to Soura. That move would take place early in 2012 with the goal to reach the next generation for Christ.

When the children of Soura and surrounding areas saw the love that this couple had for them, they were drawn to them instantly. There is little to smile and feel good about in a country like Niger where most of the population is Muslim. Islam is a religion of rules and laws requiring legalistic obedience without grace. In Islam, hope for heaven is based on how hard you work and there is never any assurance that you will make it. Add to this deep poverty, sickness, and malnutrition where your greatest concern is not what will we eat next week or next month but tomorrow. When these children saw this couple’s love it shined like a beacon in the night. Their smiles and the story of a God who loved them brought hope.

Today Ayouba and Sirleide minister to hundreds of children, often using their meager income to feed and care for those who suffer the most. This is such a devoted couple committed to serving “the least of these” to bring glory to God who brought them together for this work.

Over the years they have built strong relationships not only with the children, and many of them have come to faith in Christ. They have also built strong relationships with many of the parents as well. Even though they have experienced some displeasure from Muslims in their village, this has not deterred them from continuing to work with the children. The parents of the children tell them they see such a difference in their children. They are happy, help around the home. This is opening doors to speak with the parents about Christ and the difference He can make in their lives too. This couple is sowing seeds of faith in the hearts of these children. The older children who have come to faith in Christ are now being discipled to take the message of Christ to other villages.

Henry M. Stanley a British explorer first referred to Africa as the dark continent because there was so much unknown and unexplored about it. Today, much of Africa is still a dark continent for another reason. The Light of Christ is yet to be seen in all its glory. Ayouba and Sirleide are changing that one child at a time.

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New Health Center, for the Future of the Kingdom of God in Niger

“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Luke 18:16, 17.

Bassirou is eight years old and has been coming to the “Good News Club,” a ministry of Amour et Compassion du Christ (Love and Compassion of Christ). Ayouba Moussa, the director, told me that Bassirou and his brothers and sisters walk more than a mile to learn about Jesus. Like most kids who attend, they don’t have shoes to wear. Bassirou and his siblings are from an extremely poor Muslim family and would never have known who Jesus was without the “Good News Club.”

Ayouba recently learned that Bassirou was seriously ill, so he and his wife Sirleide went to visit the family. Bassirou had a serious case of malaria with a very high fever and appeared lifeless. It was obvious to them he needed medical care, but Bassirou’s family live in deep poverty and had no means to pay for his care. Ayouba and Sirleide knew they had to do something so they took Bassirou to the hospital some distance away.

At the hospital Bassirou received the treatment he needed. The doctor that treated him said he was in critical condition because the malaria caused severe anemia, resulting in loss of oxygen supply to his body tissues. He told them Bassirou would have died in a day or two if they had not brought him for treatment.

Ayouba and Sieleide Moussa gladly spent more than half of their monthly support check to pay for this child’s care. Without their concern and intervention, this could have been just another tragic story, just one more needless death of a child who was curable with a short visit to a health center and an antibiotic.

The World Health Organization estimates that about 94% of all malaria deaths occur in Africa – most commonly in children under the age of five. Malaria is a major public health issue in Niger and is endemic throughout the country. Malaria accounts for 28% of all illnesses and 50% of all deaths in this nation of more than 25 million people. These are preventable deaths!

This is the reason building this health center is so critically important. Ayouba and Sieleide are working with hundreds of children of all ages. Many of them are coming to faith in Jesus. As they grow older in Christ, they will be the next generation to carry the message of Christ to this nation. We simply cannot allow an easy-to-treat disease like malaria take the lives of these children before they have an opportunity to mature in faith.

Bassirou has recovered and is able to return to the “Good News Club,” but all is not good news. Bassirou’s little sister (in the pink dress) recently died of malnutrition, a second major challenge for this area and the children coming to “Good News Club.” This is the reason we will start a feeding program for these kids soon.

Your donation for the new health center is an investment in this next generation of Christ followers. It is one of many ways that Hope Springs can literally bring hope to people who have so little. hopespringsint.com/donate