United Methodist Church upholds position against homosexuality, same-sex marriage

View of the stage during the United Methodist Church's special session General Conference inside the Dome at America's Center in St. Louis, Missouri on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. | United Methodist News Service/Kathleen Barry
The United Methodist Church will maintain its official position that homosexuality is contrary to Christian teaching, in a decision following days of contentious debate over the issue. 
For the past several years, the UMC has been embroiled in an emotional debate over whether to change its stance, as outlined in its Book of Discipline, labeling homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Delegates at the UMC special session of General Conference, representing all of the global denomination, voted Tuesday to reject a measure called the “One Church Plan,” which would have allowed regional bodies of the denomination to determine their position on homosexuality.
Instead, delegates approved the “Traditional Plan” in a vote of 438-384. The Plan maintains the denomination's stance against homosexuality, gay marriage, and the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals while promising to better enforce those rules. 
Mark Tooley, president of the theologically conservative Institute on Religion & Democracy in Washington, D.C., celebrated the vote result against the “One Church Plan” on Twitter.
“African, Filipino, Euro delegates crucial. They saved growing global church from plight of imploding USA Mainline Protestants. Thank you!” tweeted Tooley.
The Rev. Joe Harris presides over the legislative committee while the results of a vote approving the Traditional Plan as amended by 461-359 are displayed. The vote still needed to be approved by the plenary session on Feb. 26, the final day of the special session of the 2019 General Conference of The United Methodist Church in St. Louis, Missouri. United Methodist News Service/Paul Jeffrey
At the 2016 General Conference, delegates passed a recommendation creating a "Commission on a Way Forward," which was meant to analyze the denomination's position on LGBT issues.
Made up of a theologically diverse group of UMC leaders, the commission sought to create suggested proposals aimed at ending the divisive debate and possibly avoid a schism.
In April 2017, the UMC Council of Bishops announced that there was going to be a special session of General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, on Feb. 23–26.
"The purpose of this special session of the General Conference shall be limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward," explained the Bishops in anofficial letter.
The two major plans that the commission recommended that were among those considered by the UMC delegates were the “One Church Plan” and the “Traditional Plan.”  
The One Church Plan would allow regional bodies and congregations to determine their own stance on homosexuality. This plan was supported by a majority of the Council of Bishops.
The Traditional Plan would maintain the UMC’s position against homosexuality, while offering stricter enforcement and possibly a “gracious exit” for pro-LGBT congregations.
Supporters of full inclusion for LGBT persons in the life of The United Methodist Church demonstrate in the observer's area at the UMC special session of General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. | United Methodist News Service/Paul Jeffrey
During the special session, while the delegates voted Monday to advance the Traditional Plan to a plenary vote, the One Church Plan and a pro-LGBT “Simple Plan” were both voted down. The One Church Plan was still submitted in a minority report. 
On Tuesday, delegates voted to reject substituting the minority report in a vote of 374 in favor to 449 against, effectively killing the One Church Plan.
Many delegates offered their opinions on the floor as to which plan they preferred. Ble Leon Nathan Ake of Cote D’Ivoire argued in favor of the Traditional Plan.
“The Bible tells us that we need to stay faithful to the Word,” he said through an interpreter. “It’s God’s plan, it’s the will of God, it is the biblical way.”
J.J. Warren of the Upper New York Conference, an openly homosexual delegate, passionately spoke against the Traditional Plan.
“Jesus told the little children to come when the disciples tried to shoo them away,” said Warren on the floor Tuesday. “Don’t shoo us away. Let us come.”
Adam Hamilton, lead pastor of the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, which is the largest United Methodist congregation in the United States, spoke against the Traditional Plan, calling it “regressive” and alienating to “centrists and progressives.”
“You’ve inspired an awful lot of people who are not really engaged in the struggle before,” said Hamilton to Traditional Plan supporters, garnering applause and cheers. “You’ve inspired them to action. They’re mad, they’re upset, they’re hurt.”
Even after the One Church Plan was voted down, hours were spent debating various amendments to the Traditional Plan proposal. 
From there, several "points of order" were entertained, many brought by individuals who expressed opposition to the Traditional Plan.

60,000 Christians gather in Orlando for 'Jesus Movement' of this generation

ORLANDO – 60,000 Christians from across the United States gathered Saturday to be part of a "new Jesus movement.
"The Send," was a 10-hour event organized by Youth With A MissionChrist for All Nations, and Lou Engle of Lou Engle Ministries. The Orlando, Florida event at Camping World Stadium featured several collaborators from various national ministries who hoped to motivate Christians to fulfill their God-given call.
According to Engle, the live-streamed event was inspired by a conversation in 2011 with YWAM members hoping missionaries would rise up following the death of Rev. Billy Graham.
As the day went on, The Send featured pastors and evangelists such Bill Johnson, Daniel Kolenda and Francis Chan, along with worship teams such as Hillsong Young & Free, Jesus Culture, Tasha Cobbs-Leonard and Bethel Music.
While at The Send 2019, The Christian Post caught up with two of the events collaborators, former professional ice hockey player turned evangelist Todd White and evangelist and founder of Jesus Image, Michael Koulianos. Below is an edited transcript of their reaction to the revival.
Christian Post: What is The Send?
Koulianos: The send is ultimately a war on inaction. It's to me a twofold beautiful experience. Number one, we're gathering here to be in the presence of Jesus to truly encounter Him and then be sent from His presence, to take His actual person, to our cities, to our towns, to our neighborhoods, to our families, to our marriages. Some to the mission field and some to their own workplace. The Send is an ascending movement from the presence to the world, unto the glory of Jesus.
CP: There are thousands of people gathered here worshiping Jesus what’s your reaction?
White: I think it's amazing. It's God's waking up a sleeping giant, His church to come together and being in unity of faith and not say, "I prefer my ministry before yours" but we actually prefer each other. What we've done is a collaboration of ministries coming together saying, "Let's all go forward in one purpose, one mind, and let's go purpose, Jesus everywhere we go."
Koulianos: I think if we tried this a year ago it probably would not have worked, we just think it's the Holy Spirit. Before anybody knew who we were, we were all friends and it's God knitting hearts very authentically because of common passion and love for Jesus.
It's the Holy Spirit moving and our city has been buzzing. People are getting saved on the streets, they're getting healed on the streets. The pre-rally meetings were ridiculous. It's been an amazing, amazing time and a real privilege. I told Todd this morning, "There's 7 billion people on the earth and the fact that we get to be here today is a true honor and privilege."
CP:  Lou Engle said he wishes to usher in the Jesus movement of this generation, what has shifted in the atmosphere that makes you believe that time for the next great awakening is now?
Koulianos: I think ultimately it's the Holy Spirit, first and foremost, but He works with yielded hearts and you find out very quickly, that platforms don't satisfy you, people knowing your name doesn't satisfy you, money doesn't satisfy, these things aren't intrinsically bad, but ultimately it's about Jesus and it's unto Jesus.
I feel like the Lord is birthing this Jesus movement and a Jesus people on and off the platform, in their homes. It's what He burns for.
White: I have new words, This is God! It's amazing, we started doing schools 12 years ago and 30 or 40 people would show up because we had to go do outreach, and hardly no one would sign up.
You don't have to be an evangelist you just have to be a Christian. So now we're seeing thousands and we're watching this, and over time we are seeing people just start to live up to what God's created them to be. There's such a hunger, there's such a hunger here in this place and it's drawing on Heaven and right now it's just going to build.
Video Player
Todd White and Michael Koulianos discuss The Send
According to The Send’s website, the successful event was “a call to action, a call to repentance and a call to service.”
Yassirie Moreno at The Send 2019, Orlando, FL, Feb 23, 2019. | assirie Moreno
Event attendee and ministry leader in her local Orlando church, Yassirie Moreno testified that The Send did exactly what it set out to do.
“I definitely felt it was a call to action, for sure. The most significant thing about the event to me was that it was obvious, it wasn’t about the people on the stage but the people in the crowd. There was a singular purpose that was felt, and it was to seek Jesus and worship Him,” Moreno told CP of the event.
The worshiper said she could feel the Lord's presence in the crowd as everyone collectively “served each other by praying for one another unprompted.”
Moreno added, “The atmosphere that was set simply allowed us to move in that and empowered us to want to see God’s power manifest outside of the stadium. It was like charging up your spiritual battery to go out and be the gospel for the community and serve with the heart of God. I can honestly say it was so much more than I expected. This event wasn’t hype, which I truthfully expected, but it was definitely a call to action and to live Holy, as Todd White said, ‘Grace isn’t a pass for us to sin but the power for us to live the way Jesus did, without sin.'”
To view the event, visit bethel.tv/thesend.

Myanmar pastor killed after being kidnapped at gunpoint, leaves behind wife and 3 kids

Slain Myanmar Pastor Tun Nu poses for a picture with his wife and three children in this undated photograph. GFA.ORG
A pastor in Myanmar who led multiple fellowships is confirmed dead after being kidnapped from his home at gunpoint last month, the nonprofit mission organization Gospel for Asia has confirmed.
Pastor Tun Nu, who was one of GFA’s missionary field partners in the Rakhine state, was confirmed to have been killed along with others who were abducted by a faction believed to be a rebel army, according to a press release from the nonprofit. His death was reported on Feb. 1.
The 41-year-old Tun pastored a congregation of about 50 members in the Sittwe District of the southwestern Rakhine state, which is known for being torn by the Rohingya conflict and Rohingya genocide committed by Myanmar military forces in 2017.
According to GFA, Tun served as a pastor in Myanmar for two decades and is one of the hundreds of people to come to Christ and establish churches in that region. Since coming to Christ, Tun was believed to disciple 12 different fellowships of believers in the area.
Pastor Tun Nu was killed after being abducted by gunmen on Jan. 19, 2019, in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. GFA.ORG
GFA reports that on Jan. 19, Nu was taken from his home by five men who reportedly told him that they just wanted to question him.
The pastor leaves behind a wife and three children.
“We are heartbroken to learn of Pastor Tun’s death, and we ask you to join us in praying for his wife, family and church at this time, that they may know God’s comfort, peace and strength,” said GFA founder and director KP Yohannan.
According to GFA, Pastor Nu’s death and kidnapping are the first incident of this kind to happen to a GFA-supported ministry in Myanmar. GFA is affiliated with over 500 congregations in the country.  
“All of the brothers and sisters on the field know that, as Jesus said, they go out as ‘sheep among wolves,’” Yohannan explained. “Like Pastor Tun, they are willing to lay down their lives, if need be, to share God’s great love with those who have not yet heard the Good News.”
Since the news of Pastor Nu’s death, GFA-supported church across Myanmar have taken up an offering to support Pastor Tun’s family.
According to U.S.-based nonprofit International Christian Concern, local police and government forces were not able to locate the pastor’s whereabouts during the two weeks that he was missing. GFA reported late last month that they had not received any requests for money or ransom.
A local pastor who chose to remain anonymous told ICC that people in the district were “too scared” to look for the Tun. The pastor asserted that the community did not receive “any help in searching for him.”
ICC Regional Manager Gina Goh called on authorities in Myanmar to hold Tun’s killers accountable.
“Our hearts sank at the devastating news of Pastor Tun Nu’s death,” Goh said in a statement. “We urge the authorities to investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators who think they can get away even if they shed the blood of the innocent. Our heartfelt prayers go out to Pastor Tun Nu’s loved ones, especially to his wife and three young children.”    
Violence continues to mar the Rakhine state as insurgents continue the push for greater autonomy for ethnic Buddhists in the region.
“The continuous savage attacks on the Rakhine state are heartbreaking," said Bob Roberts, co-chair of Faith Coalition to Stop Genocide in Burmain a statement to CP."Last June, I spent 10 days in Burma’s Kachin state, in which about 95 percent of the occupants are Christian. Our brothers and sisters cannot keep suffering at the hands of these thugs. Kachin and Rohingya people need to be repatriated to their country and villages with full rights.”
In early January, a Rakhine Buddhist rebel group killed 13 police officers and injured nine others in attacks on four police posts. Later in the month, security forces returned the favor in a counterattack that killed 13 ethnic fighters.

China hearing gospel via Africa; church growing amid brutal persecution

A new system installed din at least 16 16 cities, municipalities, and provinces across China could pick out a face from a crowd with 99.8% accuracy, according to Chinese state media. https://pixabay.com/en/shanghai-old-town-renmin-road-crowd-565378/ | Pixabay/moerschy
As the Chinese economically invest in and build infrastructure in Africa, Africans are evangelizing the Chinese.
In 2014, trade between China and Africa reached an all-time high in 2014, according to the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University and McKinsey & Company. Billions of dollars in loans from China to Africa in addition to foreign direct investment have increased significantly in recent years.
Meanwhile, as a result of the influx of Chinese resources and approximately 10,000 Chinese-owned companies, the estimated 227,000 to 1 million Chinese working on the continent are hearing the message of the Gospel from African evangelical Christians.
"Many local African churches have reached out to Chinese workers, including incorporating Mandarin into services. A number of Chinese, in turn, have welcomed the sense of community and belonging that these Christian churches offer," according to UnHerd Wednesday.
"And a small but growing number of ethnically Chinese missionaries from Taiwan and other countries are specifically targeting Chinese nationals in Africa, preaching to them with a freedom they’d never be allowed in the People’s Republic."
This connection to the Gospel presents a challenge to the Chinese government which has a long history of brutally persecuting Christians under Communist dictator Mao Zedong, oppression that has been reinvigorated today as crackdowns on churches are occurring again. The government has blown some of them up and has arrested whole congregations. The government hostility to religion extends beyond Christianity and its activities; the Uighur Muslims have been detained and abused in Chinese government-run camps, according to reports.
Some outside groups estimate that between 25 to 50 percent of the Chinese population are believers in some kind of religion, to the chagrin of the government.
When those evangelized Chinese Christians return home from Africa, they bring their new faith with them.
"Visitors to the coastal province of Fujian, for example, now hear South African accented English and see houses adorned with crosses. African migrants are also moving to China in larger numbers, many of them practitioners of very evangelistic forms of Pentecostal Christianity who are willing to flout the rules placed on religious activity in China," UnHerd reported.
"Despite its best efforts, China is losing its fight against Christianity, and the growing influx of citizens returning from Africa is shaping up to be another hopeless front in that war."
If U.S. State Department figures are any indication, the number of Christians in China is approximately 70 million. Should current growth rates continue apace, the nation will soon have more Christians than any other country in the world.
Last year, as The Christian Post noted, an official believed to be behind the forcible removal of 1,700 crosses from churches in eastern China was promoted by the Communist government, amid concerns it was a sign of increased of state-sponsored hostility.
ChinaAid President Bob Fu said in a previous interview with CP that "the top leadership is increasingly worried about the rapid growth of the Christian faith and their public presence, and their social influence. It is a political fear for the Communist Party, as the number of Christians in the country far outnumber the members of the party."

North Korean woman imprisoned for faith shares how God sustained her amid horrific abuses

North Korea has been the No. 1 persecutor of Christians on the group's annual list for a consecutive 18 years, and the U.S. State Department has included North Korea on its list of countries violating religious freedom every year since 2001.Open Doors
A Christian survivor of a North Korean prison camp describes the horrific torture she endured for her faith and how God stayed with her through the brutality.
In an interview with persecution watchdog group Open Doors, a woman identified only as "Prisoner 42" shared how she became a Christian after fleeing to China in the midst of North Korea's great famine. In China, she was captured and sent to a North Korean prison camp, where she spent one year in solitary confinement.
When she arrived at the prison camp, guards shaved her head and stripped her down to nothing. Each morning when they would call for her, she would crawl out of a door flap — typically used for dogs or cats — and keep her head bowed low because she was not allowed to make eye contact with the guards.
She recalled how, for an hour, guards would ask her the same questions: "Why were you in China? Who did you meet? Did you go to church? Did you have a Bible? Did you meet any South Koreans? Are you a Christian?"
To stay alive, she was forced to lie: "Am I a Christian? Yes. I love Jesus. But I deny it. If I admit that I was helped by Chinese Christians, I will be killed, either quickly or slowly," she said. "They will murder me in this North Korean prison. Every day, I’m beaten and kicked — it hurts the most when they hit my ears. My ears ring for hours, sometimes days."
During her year in solitary confinement, she was trapped in a cold cell and never saw sunlight or another prisoner: "I spent one year in prison, and for one year my skin didn’t touch a single ray of sunlight," she said.
So she prayed and sang a song she wrote in her head — but never out loud. Lyrics included the lines “My heart longs for my Father in this prison/Although the road to truth is steep and narrow/A bright future will be revealed when I continue.”
"It has been a year now. I don’t know how long I will survive in this place," she wrote. "One day they will call me, and I won’t move. I will have died here in a North Korean prison. They will dispose of my body, and the first new prisoner that comes in will be 'Prisoner 42.' They will wear my clothes."
One day, she appeared in court where she officially divorced her husband against her will. Officials found her not guilty of being a Christian and sentenced her to four years at a re-education camp.
In between working 12 hour days, she became sick and had to stay in the barracks. There, she saw a woman praying in tongues under a blanket.
"Inside this North Korean prison, we wound up forming a secret church. When we met and felt safe enough, we prayed the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed," she said. "She was actually much braver than I was. She spoke to others about Christ as well."
But one day a car came and took her away: “When I saw her leave, I knew they were taking her to a maximum-security Kwan-li-so. I knew I would never see her again,” she said.
Meanwhile, "Prisoner 42” was released after two years. She told Open Doors the first thing she plans to do is find her husband and children.
"We haven’t seen each other in years," she said. "But God has watched over me here in this North Korean prison, and I pray and believe that He also watches over my family every second of every minute of every hour of every day."
"I need to tell them about this loving God,” she added.
North Korea has been the No. 1 persecutor of Christians on the group's annual list for a consecutive 18 years. The U.S. State Department has also included North Korea on its list of countries violating religious freedom every year since 2001. Open Doors estimates there are 250,000 imprisoned North Koreans — 50,000 of which are political prisoners jailed for their Christian faith.
North Korea has previously arrested South Korean and American missionaries for allegedly attempting to build underground churches, and very few North Korean believers risk trying to win converts, defectors say.
Recently, defector Kwak Jeong-ae, 65, shared how a fellow inmate in North Korea told guards about her own religious beliefs and insisted on using her baptized name, rather than her original Korean name, during questioning in 2004.
“She persisted in saying, ‘My name is Hyun Sarah; it’s the name that God and my church have given to me’,” Kwak said. “She told [the interrogators], ‘I’m a child of God and I’m not scared to die. So if you want to kill me, go ahead and kill me.’”
Kwak said she later saw Hyun coming back from an interrogation room with severe bruises on her forehead and bleeding from her nose. Days later, guards took Hyun away — and Kwak never saw her again.
During his State of the Union Address, President Donald Trump announced he will hold a second nuclear summit with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un later this month. A number of human rights groups and faith leaders have called on the president to confront Kim face-to-face about his country’s severe human rights violations.
“Following the scheduled meeting in February, within 60 to 90 days President Trump and the United States can determine whether North Korea is serious about opening up to the international community by including monitoring of human rights considerations as part of denuclearization talks," David Curry, CEO of Open Doors, told The Christian Post.
"The human rights violations against Christians in North Korea is unacceptable. Christians are considered the No. 1 enemy of the state of North Korea," he continued. "As the leader of Open Doors USA , I continue to implore President Trump to not shy away from our moral mandate to call Kim Jong Un to task for his litany of human rights abuses — especially his imprisonment, torture and execution of Christians whose only crime was to dare to express any beliefs other than those approved by the Communist regime."
"The situation for Christians in North Korea is vulnerable and precarious," Curry said. "Approximately 50,000 Christians are confined to prison camps — the conditions are deplorable. President Trump can bring some hope by continuing to make human rights a part of the denuclearization deal; these two items need not be mutually exclusive. The people of North Korea deserve our vocal, prayerful and relentless support.”

Muslim who sought to kill Christian cousin embraces faith after Jesus appears in dream Muslim who sought to kill Christian cousin embraces faith after Jesus appears in dream By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Reporter

An Egyptian Christian reads an Arabic prayer book during Sunday mass at Saint Mary Church in the heavily populated area of Imbaba in Cairo, June 17, 2012. | (Photo: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
An Egyptian Muslim who planned to kill his cousin for converting to Christianity has shared how he embraced the religion he once hated after Jesus delivered a powerful message to him in a dream.
Mostafa, a new convert in Egypt, recently shared with persecution watchdog Open Doors how he traveled to Cairo with the intention of killing his cousin, Mohammad, who had converted from Islam to Christianity.
In Egypt, converting from Islam to Christianity is seen as a betrayal of one’s family and heritage. Christian converts risk losing their family, friends, and even their lives.
After finding his cousin sitting in a Christian worship service, Mostafa slipped behind him and waited to make his move. But as he listened to the songs and prayers, he noticed that the words he was hearing appealed to him.
Following the service, Mostafa approached Mohammad with tears in his eyes: “I came all the way from our family’s village to spy on you and see if you had indeed become a Christian,” he said. “I should inform your family about what I saw, but I just can’t. I think the choice you made might have been the right one. Can you tell me more? Why did you leave Islam for Christianity?”
That evening, the cousins spent hours talking about the Gospel. That night, Mostafa had a dream. He saw Jesus on the cross, looking at him and saying: “I did all of this because I love you, and I want you to be free from your sins.”
The next morning, Mostafa told Mohammed what he saw in his dream and asked his cousin to pray together with him for his salvation.
Mostafa recalled telling God: “I planned to kill my cousin, Your follower. But now I am prepared to give my life for You myself.”
The following month, Mostafa was baptized with his cousin standing next to him. He hasn’t told his family that he and Mohammed are now followers of Jesus, and the two men are currently living as secret believers.
Egypt is No. 16 on Open Doors' World Watch List and continues to be a country that poses extreme danger and violence for Christians, according to the persecution watchdog. Various Islamic extremist groups remain the largest persecutors of Christians in the country.
Despite continued persecution, a number of Christians across the Middle East have embraced Christianity. Officially, about 10% of the 95 million population are Christian, although many believe the figure is significantly higher.
Last year, a former Muslim-turned-pastor who started hundreds of churches in Pakistantold The Christian Post that many Muslims are making decisions to convert after Jesus Himself has visited them in dreams and visions.
“It's very dangerous for anyone to preach the Word of God face-to-face in non-Western countries,” the pastor told CP. “God reveals things through dreams to evangelists/pastors. People in the East are more uneducated and unable to read the Bible so God uses this method to reach them.”
“[People] are very faithful in the East, placing themselves in positions to see the signs of God by studying the Word of God,” he added. “Eastern people watch for the signs and miracles to show that the Word of God is alive. It is a privilege, one not everyone can share in — to own a Bible in the East. In the West, people look more for wisdom, like the Greeks of old. They do not always rely on faith, which can't be seen.”
Mission Frontiers magazine also reported that out of 600 Muslim converts, 25 percent experienced a dream that led to their conversion.
A now-former shaman in a village in northwest China shared in another article for Open Doors in July that she saw Christ while on her deathbed.
"I was in the back seat of a taxi as my brother drove me toward endless darkness. But then three men, who were wearing brilliant white robes, approached. But their light was so bright, I couldn't see their faces," Ting, the former shaman, said of her experience.
"They told me I must make a choice. And as they spoke, two other men wearing black robes invited me to follow them. I knew in my heart one of the men wearing a white robe was Jesus. So I followed Him."
In 2015, an Islamic State terror group fighter who had killed Christians also turned to Christ after reportedly dreaming of "a man in white."

Family continues ministry of missionary killed in Burkina Faso 3 years ago; 1,000 orphans helped

Michael Riddering poses for a picture with children from Burkina Faso in this photograph posted to Facebook in 2013. | FACEBOOK/MIKE RIDDERING
It’s been over three years since American missionary Michael Riddering was among dozens of Christians killed by Al Qaeda in the West African nation of Burkina Faso. But today, his ministry to the orphaned and poor there continues with the help of his family.
Riddering, who along with his wife sold all their possessions in the U.S. to run an orphanage and women’s crisis center in Burkina Faso in 2011, was killed when gunmen opened fire on a coffee shop in Ouagadougou just minutes after Riddering arrived on Jan. 16, 2016.
Riddering was driving a ministry van on his way to pick up a group of about 15 missionaries at the airport. But since their flight was late, he decided to get some coffee. Minutes after arriving at the cafe, the attack began and 28 people were killed. According to Riddering’s brother, Jeff, intelligence reports have suggested that the terrorists were scouting out that soft-target location for three weeks looking to kill “crusaders.”
“So, you got two brand new vans to come in. He walks in a bright colored shirt. And the terrorists said ‘It's go time,’” Jeff Riddering, the pastor of Gateway House of Prayer in Sunset Hills, Missouri, said.
“My sister-in-law doesn’t think of it that way, that he was specifically targeted. But one thing we do know is that Christians were targeted.”
The front of Cappuccino restaurant is seen from a burned-out car after an attack on the restaurant and the Splendid Hotel, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, January 18, 2016. | (Photo: Reuters/Joe Penney)
Riddering left behind his four children and wife, Amy Boyle-Riddering. Boyle-Riddering and her children are still in Burkina Faso running that same orphanage and women’s crisis center, which is funded by the charity Sheltering Wings.
Sheltering Wings is a Missouri-based nonprofit that provides humanitarian care and partners with local churches in Africa to send missionaries to unreached communities in their region.
The orphanage in the northern part of the country serves hundreds of children. But in total, Sheltering Wings helps over 1,000 orphans nationwide. Most of those orphans are living with extended relatives but are sponsored by Sheltering Wings.
In addition, the children are given a free Christian education through schools built by Sheltering Wings and its partners.
“[Our sponsorship programs] make it so [the children] don’t become a burden to their extended family but even a blessing,” Jeff Riddering explained. “People have the entire courtyard with food and different things like that. It becomes a blessing and almost an honor to be an orphan in the courtyard because Sheltering Wings comes in every month. Because of that child, they bless the entire courtyard.”
Elementary school students in Burkina Faso receive shoes donated through Sheltering Wings, a Missouri-based nonprofit. PROVIDED
A courtyard in Burkina Faso is a way to describe a group of homes that are associated with the same family. In many cases, since it is a Muslim nation, a courtyard encompasses a man, his multiple wives, their offspring, and other relatives.
The women’s crisis center that is also operated by Boyle-Riddering and Sheltering Wings assists women who may have been kicked out of their courtyards for somehow bringing shame to the family. Some examples include having sex out of wedlock or even being raped. When the women and her children are kicked out of the courtyard, they have no place to go.
But at the Sheltering Wings women’s crisis center, the women can receive job training and are eligible to receive microloans to help them get on their feet.
“We also have a ministry to the widows there,” Riddering explained. “Maybe they are elderly women no longer being cared for by their extended family.”
Sheltering Wings also partners with well-drilling organizations to help bring clean water to impoverished communities. 
As for Jeff Riddering, he lives in St. Louis. But in August, he too will sell his possessions and move to Burkina Faso. Part of the reason is to be closer to his brother’s family but also to launch another ministry that will further the Gospel in the country.
Jeff Riddering is surrounded by children on his visit to Burkina Faso in March 2018. PROVIDED
This decision has weighed on Riddering’s heart since he saw his slain brother in a dream several months after his passing.
“I saw him coming through these double doors. He comes up to me and I say, ‘Michael, how can you be here? You are dead,’” Riddering recalled. “He kind of smiled and said, ‘Jeff continue my ministry.’ It was only four words.”
Riddering’s new ministry will be called My Brother’s Keeper. The ministry will assist the national Assemblies of God denomination in accomplishing its vision. Since Sheltering Wings began its work in Burkina Faso, the Assemblies of God denomination has been instrumental in helping the nonprofit accomplish its vision.
Now, Riddering says, its time to help the church achieve its goals.
“Without them, we couldn’t have done it,” Riddering said. “The workforce is African. All the school teachers, they are all African. All the Christians there are from the Assemblies of God denomination.”
“There are over 200 churches that are Assemblies of God churches. What we have is an opportunity to help the Assemblies of God accomplish their mission,” he added. “We want to facilitate their vision to become missionaries themselves, not missionaries outside of Burkina Faso but to the unreached people in Burkina Faso.”
Riddering said that he will be working to raise funding to help plant between 10 to 15 new churches in Burkina Faso this year.  
"There are a lot of missionaries there, some have been targeted," Riddering said of the threat of terrorism. "But if God is asking me to go, then I will not be afraid."
According to Riddering, Assemblies of God missionaries go to Kenya for training. When they graduate, the church will send the pastor and his family to a remote area of the country that “hasn’t even heard of the Gospel.”
“The reason why we went to Burkina Faso is not that it is a fruitful area but that I feel like we were called to this area,” Riddering said. “What we are seeing right now is a revival type thing that is on the cusp of happening.”
My Brother’s Keeper is also the title of Riddering’s book My Brother’s Keeper: The Surprising Story of a Modern-Day Martyr. The book tells the story of Michael Riddering’s unlikely transformation from an alcoholic yacht broker to a missionary in a desert African nation.
Michael Riddering. | (Facebook: Amy Boyle-Riddering)
Riddering recalled the day that his brother called him on the phone to tell him about a conversation he had with Jesus.
“His life radically changed at that point. His children, his wife and all the people in the church, they just couldn’t even recognize him,” Riddeering said. “He was just anti-social but then all of a sudden he has home groups at his house and he gets baptized. The pastor thought it was such a moving moment, they made him the person that did the rest of the baptisms for the church. He became the youth pastor of the church. He oversaw the food distribution stuff. One time, he joked about it. ‘Ill do anything God wants. I will move to Africa.’”
The move to Africa came about seven years after Riddering was saved, his brother explained.
“When he was there, he helped tens of thousands of people make decisions for Christ,” Riddering said of his brother. “He was only there for five years before he was killed.”
But today, Michael Riddering’s adopted daughter is following in her father’s footsteps.
“The last trip I was on she came up to me and said, ‘Uncle Jeff, my girlfriend here lives in a small village of about 200 people.’ We would like to go in that village,’” Jeff Riddering remembers. “I got 2 vans and loaded them up and brought them over to this village. In four hours, they said, of about 200 people, 111 made decisions for Christ and 56 said they were interested but couldn’t make a decision at that time. That doesn’t happen in America yet. In some ways, I believe that it will.”