Fifteen years ago at summer camp the theme was "Countries of the World". All the kids were broken up into teams, and each team represented a country. Throughout the course of the week teams learned many different aspects about their country: Politics, religions, history, economy, and missionaries who served there.
It was the summer before my freshman year of high school, and although I had grown up in the church, and I had heard about other countries and people groups, none of them had ever really stirred my heart.
That summer I was on team Bangladesh. Bangladesh at the time had the highest proportion of impoverished people in the world...80%. We learned about the lack of clean water and the diseases that resulted, and the lack of medical care. We learned so many things that really broke my heart. But more than that, Bangladesh captured my heart.
Since that summer I have prayed for Bangladesh, and I have dreamed of Bangladesh. I have an unexplainable love for a country I have never seen, and a people group I have never met.
A little over a year ago I started sponsoring a child from Bangladesh through Compassion International.
This is Elahi. Over the last year I have grown to love him deeply, and my relationship with him has caused me to feel even more burden for his country.
Having said all this, I would love for you to feel this passion for Bangladesh and join me in prayer for this country. But that is not this month's challenge.
You see, I think God gives people different burdens for different places and different people. One of mine is Bangladesh. But before I could have a burden for Bangladesh, I had to learn about Bangladesh. Maybe there are countries God has already placed on your heart to pray for, and maybe not. But one thing I believe is that God desires his children to seek Him on behalf of others, near or far.
Operation World is an online prayer guide...for every nation on earth. It is a great resource to learn about the needs of those anywhere and everywhere.
My challenge for the month of July is to check out their website, and to read over as many countries as possible. While you do that, pray for God to break your heart for those things that break His. You may also want to check out the Voice of the Martyrs map of restricted nations to get more detailed and up to date information on countries where Christians face persecution for their faith.
I challenge you to pray about what God would have you do with the information you read, and the tugging you feel on your heart.
You may find yourself praying for a different country everyday, or maybe praying for one country for a week....or the entire month.
If you already have specific countries you pray for regularly, continue to do so, but make the effort to learn about and pray for the needs of other countries as well.
To take it a step further, if there are places that God lays heavily on your heart, consider finding missionaries to encourage there, an organization there to support, sponsoring a child from that country, or sharing the information with others.
My hope is that this month's challenge will open up your eyes a bit wider to the people of the world, stir a compassion in your heart to pray on their behalf, and that as your love for others grows, so would your love for the Savior.
Oh, and as the month goes on, I would love to hear about the places and people you grow to love!