check your carry on bags

Pavon Prison, 12 miles southeast of the Guatemalan capital Guatemala City. It is the new residence of Zackary Wilson,  a short term missionary from the US.

What kind of a place is Pavon? Last year, a riot erupted at the prison. It killed four people, including four who were beheaded. The violence started from Lima forbidding a rival gang from selling drugs inside the prison.  Lima, a former military officer, was serving a sentence for bludgeoning a bishop to death with a concrete block, one of the more notorious crimes in Guatemalan history.  The bishop was murdered two days after he presented testimony about atrocities committed by the military in Guatemala’s civil war, mainly against indigenous populations.  The leader of the rival gang, drug trafficker Marvin Montiel Marin, was sentenced to serve 820 years behind bars for the murder of 15 Nicaraguans and a Dutchman on a bus carrying cocaine.  One of the people who died in the riot was a model who visited Lima monthly.

Pavon is now Zackary Wilson’s place of residence. Zack was with a church group on a week long mission trip when his nightmare began. On his way through airport security to  come back home to the US, authorities found ammunition in his backpack.  According to Zack’s family, he hunts and it was an honest mistake.  Apparently, the backpack arrived into Guatemala in checked luggage.

Zack has been charged with terrorism which carries a 15-year sentence. His trial will be held in September or maybe October. Until then, Zack has to pay for the cost of his incarceration at Pavon.  Seeking treatment for his chronic ulcerative colitis at a private hospital will cost $5000.  His US medical insurance doesn’t cover it.

Knowing what is in your bags before going through airport security is a lesson for all of us.  Read the fine print on your travel insurance. It might not cover you in the event you are charged with a crime.

Pray for Zack, his wife and two small children. And no, the US Embassy has no magic way to get Zack out of Pavon.



very sad

Otto F. Warmbier has died. He was the US college student who was held in North Korea for 17 months. He came home still in a comma he’d been in for months.

Otte was visiting China in December 2015 when he signed up for a five-day tour of North Korea with a Chinese company that advertised “budget travel to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from.”

Otte was detained at the airport when he ought to have been departing the country. His crime was an attempt to steal a propaganda sign from the hotel. According to CNN,  North Korea believed a member of the Friendship United Methodist Church in Wyoming, Ohio, promised Otte a used car worth $10,000 in exchange for retrieving a slogan-bearing sign from the communist state.

We hope CNN is wrong. We hope no member of any church would encourage a young person to steal anything – especially not in a totalitarian state.



back to Jerusalem?

In May, two Chinese nationals were kidnapped in Pakistan. ISIS has claimed responsibility for their deaths.

The two were in Pakistan on business visas but were doing mission work according to Pakistan’s interior minister. The man, 24, and woman, 26,  were among a group of Chinese citizens who obtained a business visa from the Pakistani Embassy in Beijing.

It is alleged the pair went to the Pakistani city of Quetta and under the guise of learning Urdu from a Korean and “engaged in preaching.”

In a social media post discussing the story, the People’s Daily newspaper, the Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, said Friday that China was the biggest target market for South Korean missionaries and urged people “to cover their souls.” It is not known whether the two Chinese nationals had been accompanied in Pakistan by Korean Christians.

The Chinese Communist Party once tried to destroy religion. It failed.

Back in 2010 the PEW Forum estimated there were 67 million Christians in China.  Today, according to some estimates, there are more Christians in China than Communist Party members, up to 100 million. There are hundreds or perhaps even thousands of unofficial home churches in China where people gather to study the bible and pray.

The Back to Jerusalem Movement started in Chain. It is an evangelistic campaign to send commissionaires to all the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim peoples who live between China and Jerusalem.

The movement plans to send 100,000 or more missionaries to 51 countries along the Silk Road.  They intend to complete the great commission and take the gospel into the whole world.

Taking the gospel into Pakistan took extraordinary courage.  Pray for the rest of the missionaries on the silk road that the good news may be proclaimed.



not every one who says to me Lord, Lord

An asylum seeker killed a five year old child in Bavaria and was shot by police.  The boy was attached by the man on Saturday night. The 47 year old mother of the boy was also injured, she was originally from Russia. She and another child were hospitalized.

The 41 year old perpetrator from Afghanistan had already been convicted of arson and served six years in prison. He had attempted to murder his wife and cousin by burning them to death. When he was released he was allowed to live in an asylum home under heavy surveillance. He was not allowed to leave the compound and was made to wear an ankle monitor.

According a Bavarian broadcaster the reason the Afghan was not sent back to Afghanistan after serving his sentence was that he had converted to Christianity.

Nothing about his behavior suggests he converted to Christianity.


chemical weapons

Islamic State tested poisonous chemicals on prisoners in a bid to produce easily-obtainable chemical weapons for local use and potential terrorist attacks in the West, records recovered from Mosul by Iraqi soldiers and obtained by The Times show.

This news comes from notes recovered in Mosul by British and US forces.  ISIL was experimenting on people using thallium sulfate which is commercially available a pesticide in the United States. Experiments conducted in Mosul are part of a larger weapons program.  Ways of making such weapons are included in training materials for ISIL recruits in the West.

Given its stated goal to strike at the church, maybe its time to safeguard potlucks and other gatherings.

in case you didn’t catch this one

Twenty-eight year old Hamza bin Laden recently delivered a speech sounding very much like his father, according to the FBI. He has recorded four audio messages in two years according to a 60 Minutes report. Basically, he is saying to America, “we are coming and you are going to feel it. We are going to take revenge for what you did to my father, for what you did in Iraq, and for what you did in Afghanistan.”