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Four Phases of Fruitfulness in the Desert

By: Dan Germo, Bethany Gateways International Director

As Jason and I walked to the center of the farm, I could feel the temperature drop several degrees due to the lushness of the vegetation around. Located in the desert of northern Kenya, this land was not always like this. In fact, when we selected it for the farm site, it was barren, dry, and sandy like the land that still surrounds it. Now, the daily harvest of fruits and vegetables is nothing short of astounding in comparison.

In my current role as International Director, I have had the pleasure of visiting all of our Bethany Gateways ministry locations multiple times. Over the years, I have witnessed spiritual wastelands worldwide transformed before my very eyes! I want to share four sites that exemplify each phase of fruitfulness that can be found on the mission field.

1. FOUNDATIONS: LAYING THE GROUNDWORK OF TRUST WITH PEOPLE

I think of Corey and our team in Southeast Asia. he and his young family have been full-time on the field for about six years. Corey has stepped up into leadership, developing a healthy team, which has a strong focus on engaging unreached tribes. At the same time, he is working alongside our national partners, mentoring Bethany Global Interns, and exploring further opportunities to send more workers to tribes currently untouched by the Gospel.

2. FAVOR: RELATIONSHIPS BEGIN TAKING ROOT

Jason with his wife, Bekah, and their four beautiful daughters come to mind. They are growing in experience, favor, and influence. It is truly remarkable. During my recent visit to Kenya, I watched Jason (Bethany Gateways’ current Field Leader) interact with Muslims working on the farm, Kenyan partners who are reaching local Muslim people, missionaries from Asia who have joined Jason’s team, Bethany Global University Interns, and other missionaries.

Just as I recall the farm when it was just arid land, I have very clear memories of Jason and Bekah when they came to Kenya on a three-week short-term trip as Bethany freshmen. They were, unlike the farm at the beginning, green as green gets. They eventually returned to serve their Bethany internship under us in Kenya. they grew and matured in that time, coming back to serve full-time while I was the Field Leader in Kenya. They have served 10 years in this difficult desert region.

3. FRUITFULNESS: TREMENDOUS SPIRITUAL ADVANCE AND DISCIPLES MULTIPLYING

Likewise, I think of Sam who has been serving in Africa with his wife, Jonhlld, and family for 24 years. After years of hard work, they are in the midst of their most fruitful years ever. They are now seeing African church planters going, not just to the Muslims of their country, but to the surrounding countries in the region. They are eager to receive a new team of American Global Interns to mentor and train. They also continue to pray that many will return as church planters alongside their African counterparts.

4. FATHERHOOD: MENTORING THE NEXT GENERATION

Lastly, I want to highlight Grayling and Sandra. With nearly 40 years of ministry experience in France, they are fully engaged in mission at a point when many people back “home” are well into retirement.

This season is one of mentoring the next generation in the midst of an exceedingly unreached Mediterranean city, including both post-Christian French and pre-Christian Muslims. Their efforts are focused on mentoring the few young pastors in the city, while also mentoring Bethany interns. Their hope is to see the growth of students into long-term workers in France and the surrounding region.

Each stage of growth can look a little different from person to person and country to country. What all four teams share is that they have been doing the hard day-to-day work of “tilling the soil” for a number of years. Together, these teams represent 80 years of faithful ministry. They are a testament to the truth that, if we are faithful to plant the seed of the Gospel, God will do His part to make things grow.

This article is from the Spring 2019 Issue of CoMission Magazine.

Buddhist Monk Turned Missionary: Transformed by a Vision and God’s Word

By: Kerry Olson, Bethany Partners 

Sonam was born and raised in the Kingdom of Bhutan, a landlocked country in South Asia. Surrounded by the awe-inspiring Himalayas, Bhutan has 74 distinct people groups – 71 of which are 0% Evangelical Christian.

At the age of 12, Sonam began his journey toward becoming a Buddhist monk. For the next 7 years, like many in his culture, Sonam dedicated his life to studying the ways of Buddha.

Then God intervened.

YOU WILL SEEK ME AND FIND ME

Sonam was always seeking spiritual truth, and yet Sonam’s heart and mind felt a pull that there was something more. One day, after a six-month period of meditation, Sonam experienced a vision. In this vision, a man robed in white revealed: 

“I am the answer to your questions.”

Sonam remained a Buddhist after this vision, but a seed had been planted. Later on, while serving in Nepal as a monk, a Christian shop owner gave him a gospel tract titled, “The Way to Salvation”. Another monk demanded he throw away the tract, and that he refused to read it. Sonam kept the tract. He studied it for several days. Not unlike his vision, John 14:6 spoke to Sonam’s spirit:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Relocated to a Buddhist monastery in India, on the border of Bhutan, Sonam met yet another Christian who invited him to learn more about Jesus by attending a church service. For the first time, Sonar attended a Christian church. Here, he was given a Bible. As Sonam read the Word of God, Jesus’ words penetrated his soul even further. In particular, Matthew 10:33:

“But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

Within the confines of his modest monastery room, Sonam pored over the Bible almost non-stop. Then one day the inevitable happened. Sonam was caught and subsequently kicked out of the monastery.

I AM THE ANSWER

Shortly after his banishment, Sonam attended a Christian Youth Camp. He was baptized. He committed himself to a “home” church. He even enrolled in a five-year Bible school program.

A devout Buddhist monk hungered for the Truth. In the most unimaginable place, a Buddhist monastery, he found Jesus. He dedicated his life to Christ and in turn, realized Bhutan’s dire need for the Gospel. Upon graduation, Sonam returned to Bhutan where he met his future wife, Tham – a Christian and Bible school graduate. Today, they are missionaries.

Sonam and Tham have two young children. Together, they have a passion to “reach the unreached” people of their country. One year ago, after prayer and preparation, Sonam and Tham relocated to the northeastern region of Bhutan – a profoundly unreached region, only 0.59% Christian – where they are currently ministering and seeking to establish the region’s first church.

As we at Bethany International strive to take the gospel to the most “unlikely” places and support our partners like Sonam and Tham – please pray for their journey and consider how you might be able to help them and others like them to make a difference.

 

This article is from the Spring 2019 Issue of CoMission Magazine.

My Internship in India: A Surprise of Salvation

In March 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi began rejection major child assistance from organizations that didn’t align with India’s Hindu ideological standards. Miraculously, despite this, I was still able to serve with Bethany International’s team in India for my global internship.

I spent the majority of my time in India teaching the English language to Muslim and Hindu children within an informal school. These children were from a poverty-stricken village, with most unable to afford the school uniforms required by the formal India schools.

The school hosts about 80 children ranging from ages 2-12. In addition to teaching these students, while the children attended class, we provided sewing and English language classes for their mothers – seeking to teach while also ministering in a country so closed off from the Gospel.

This was my first time in a role like this. I barely spoke the Hindi language. Our team did the best we could to learn Hindi, and to create a curriculum that would teach both English and share the Gospel to our students and their families.

Most of the children had never attended school; they didn’t understand classroom etiquette or proper behavior. Once, a student physically grabbed my ear to get my attention. Another threw grasshoppers at us as a joke. At the beginning, it was challenging, but over time, they grew to respect us.

More importantly, they began to show interest in Jesus. We taught stories from the Bible, and the children enjoyed acting them out. Afterward, asking what they learned, to our amazement they would regularly recite the stories back to us. Over the course of 10 months, we saw a transformation of not only our students’ behavior but signs that these Bible stories were touching their hearts.

On my last day at the school, my students led me blindfolded to our classroom. When I opened my eyes, there was a giant red ribbon hanging at the front of our classroom. The room as a whole was covered in streamers and balloons.

As a thank you, these children planned a surprise going away for me entirely on their own. I came to India to share the Gospel, and believe we accomplished this in many ways. At first I didn’t know what to expect, but I was amazed to see all that God did in these children.

About a month after I returned home, I received a surprise incomparable to any others. Two families from our school made the decision to give their lives to Christ. Never underestimate the power of God, even in the spiritually darkest places on earth. I believe in my heart that the salvation of these families will serve as a catalyst to even greater accomplishments for the Kingdom of God.

 

This article is from the Spring 2019 Issue of coMission Magazine.

Life at the Edge of God’s Kingdom

Marseille, France: Europe’s Gateway to North Africa

Marseille provides a critical access point to several North African people groups who would otherwise be extremely challenging for Christians to reach – including the Algerian Moabite Berbers who have no known Christians among them.

We are reaching out to the secular (anti-religious) French nationals as well as Muslim immigrants in Marseille. One example comes from Mayra – a BGU senior who just returned from her 16-month internship. She developed a relationship with an Algerian Muslim family befriending their daughter Fatima. Through Mayra’s encouragement, Fatima attended a Christian church with her for the first time. Fatima experienced God’s love and continues to pursue further understanding of Christianity.

East Africa: Ethnic Somali Villages

Somalia is 99.6% unreached and is in a state of crisis due to famine and violence. Kenya, which neighbors Somalia, has an estimated 2.3 million ethnic Somalis and 400,000 Somali refugees.

Our Bethany team, partnering with various other missionaries, is working with unreached Muslim ethnic groups including Somalis living in Kenya. Jason and his team are equipping church planters and, in turn, Muslim villages, with sustainable farming techniques in a climate prone to drought. They have witnessed amazing result thus far – both in farming and Muslims opening their hearts to know more about Jesus. In the last month, church planters started two Discovery Bible Studies with Muslims and all those attending have their own Bible.

India: The Chamar People

The “low caste” Chamar number over 51 million in India. Only 0.5% of these 51 million are born-again believers. To be in the low caste is often regarded as “untouchable” or “undesirable”, with unemployment and illiteracy being widespread.

We have focused on engaging and bringing the hope of Jesus to the Chamar people. Edward Jesudhas, our local partner, began reaching out to the Chamar. Edward moved his family to northern Delhi, started a church in his home, and grew his church to over 70 people in the first year. He also established a missionary training school to equip Indian missionaries to reach their native people. Today, his congregation, mission training school, and the number of workers among the Chamar have grown.

New Delhi: Hindu and Muslim Communities

India has more unreached people groups than any other country in the world, with a staggering 2,291 unreached groups. The capital city, New Delhi, alone has 441 unreached people groups.

Through multiple missional efforts in New Delhi, we provide education to children and their mothers who have no access to it including English and sewing classes.

The Kingdom of Bhutan: The Bumthangpa People

Nestled in South Asia’s Eastern Himalayas, the Kingdom of Bhutan has deep roots in the main religion: Buddhism. Thinley, a “Buddhist Monk Turned Missionary”, is reaching the Bhutanese unreached peoples. Thinly and his wife are establishing a church in a village with 4,500 Bumthangpa people. The Bumthangpa number 24,000 people and are only 0.59% Christian.

Buddhist Thailand

The Thai people are profoundly unreached people group. There are many smaller tribal people groups through Thailand as well. Many small Buddhist villages have virtually no Christian witness of any kind. And those Christian churches in the region often do not reach out to the Thai people. Our Bethany team befriended a local pastor. Through their interactions and encouragement, the pastor began to lead his people in outreach to the village. The church took on a new sense of urgency to be a light in an otherwise dark village.

This article is from the Spring 2019 Issue of coMission Magazine.

Bringing Life to Lifeless Places

In 2012, I was given an offer that would forever change the direction of my family’s life and ministry. I was asked to consider the role of International Director of Bethany Gateways – Bethany International’s sending agency. At that point, we had been living in Africa for 13 years with no intention of leaving any time soon. Saying yes would mean relocating to the US and providing strategic oversight to our mission force around the world.

A DREAM OF THE FUTURE

The night I was offering the job, the Lord gave me a very powerful dream. I was in the presence of three American men when suddenly standing beside us were four men of a given ethnicity. They were standing absolutely motionless and expressionless – they almost looked lifeless. Within a short time, this group of four seemingly hollow men became a group of about 15 men and women, bursting with praise and worship to the Lord. As I woke up, the Lord said to me, “If you do this thing, life will be brought to otherwise lifeless places.”

A little lover two years later, I was the International Director and my family and I were living in the US. Throughout my time as International Director, that phrase “…life will be brought to otherwise lifeless places” continued to echo through my memory as a promise to my family that such a major change would be worth it. In fact, one of my daughters even painted a picture that hangs in my office with that phrase on it.

STREAMS IN THE DESERT

It is now 2019, and I am writing this article from SE Asia. Our team here was involved with a small Buddhist village, in an area with no Christian witness of any kind; however, they discovered a tiny struggling church in this village. They befriended the pastor and church members and became one of them. Through their interactions and encouragement, the pastor began to lead his people in outreach to the rest of the village. The church took on a new sense of urgency to be a light in an otherwise dark village.

In a public school classroom across the country, the class rose to do their morning ritual Buddhist chants. A six-year-old boy stood up, and with confidence told his teacher, “I will stand with you, but I won’t chant. I am now a Christian.” His mother abandoned her life of prostitution and came to the Lord through the faithful ministry and discipleship of one of our missionaries and global partners. She now serves the Lord and is teaching her son to stand for truth.

In another part of Asia, one of your missionaries, together with BGU interns and global partners, have been serving in a Muslim village. Months ago, while interactions were very positive, there was no indication that anyone was interested in anything beyond education. Just last week, things turned a corner: two women and their whole families came to the Lord. One of the ladies shared with a missionary, “I now pray to Jesus, but please, come and teach me how to pray. I don’t know how, but all day I say, ‘Thank you, Jesus. I love you, Jesus.’”

Across the ocean in Africa, recently one of our missionary families was able to baptize nine Muslims who came to faith in Jesus. In the same region, another one of our missionary families had been serving for eight years in a Muslim village and had yet to see anyone interested in hearing about the message of Jesus. Some trained African missionaries came to join them in the village for a month and, within two weeks, they started two Bible studies among Muslims.

The African missionaries came to our Bethany missionary and said, “We have found that YOU are the person of peace in this village. Because of your faithful service, and because the people in the village know we are connected to you, we had the freedom to begin these Bible studies. But, it is only because of your faithful service, and because the people in the village know we are connected to you, we had the freedom to begin these Bible studies. But, it is only because of your faithful service over these many years.”

Life is being brought to otherwise lifeless places because faithful men and women are willing to go to the hard places, sacrifice, and let their lives shine forth in the darkness. Please pray for our missionaries and partners across the globe who are serving in very difficult regions and circumstances, all with the purpose to bring life to the lifeless.

 

This article is from the Spring 2019 Issue of coMission Magazine.

Edward Jesudhas: Celebrating the Life that Started a Movement

There I found myself, at the Delhi National Hospital morgue in India, mourning the death of my dear friend Edward. Edward was a man of God in every sense. This past December, God brought him home suddenly at the age of 42. This is the story of Edward Jesudhas, profound missionary, and my personal friend. A few of the moving testimonies I learned about Edward before I preached to Edward’s congregation after his passing:

“He led me to the Lord and counseled our family.”

“The day he prayed for me to get a job, I got the job!” “God used Edward to pray for many people. He surprised me one day by saying, ‘God will use you to pray for others and see them touched by God as well.’”

“Edward came to our poor slum and began to tell us about the One True God. No Christian had ever visited us before.”

I was in India, one country amongst many ministry sites I was visiting in Asia, away from my home in Mexico. I had plans to see Edward just hours before tragedy struck – excited to sit with my friend and discuss the happenings of his ministry.

Edward strived each day to make an impact – in his family, his communities, and ultimately in this world. He devoted his life to the mission field, serving in North India seeking to reach a people group who previously had no access to the Gospel.

AN UNEXPECTED LOSS

The day Edward passed he traveled with a ministry partner to visit sites among the “low caste” Chamar people in the Rohini area of Delhi, India. He walked through a slum area where they teach young Chamar girls to sew, shared time with a number of locals he had helped lead to the Lord, and paid a visit to the missions school that he started just one year prior.

On this same day, I was teaching in a missions’ school just outside of Delhi. My wife and I were scheduled to visit and teach at Edward’s newly formed missionary training school and his church over the upcoming weekend. Hours before he passed, I received a text from Edward that read “Where are you my friend? You are very silent.” I quickly replied that we were in transit to his part of the city, and were looking forward to being with him the next day.

Upon returning home from his work, with his wife at his side, Edward had a major heart attack. There was nothing that could be done to save him. He was gone in minutes.

AN UNFORGETTABLE IMPACT

My friend Edward was a pastor, missions mobilizer, Ph.D. Candidate, and ministry partner. We worked together in the GlobeServe network of missionary training schools; our goal through GlobeServe being to establish churches among 500 unreached people groups over just a few years.

Edward targeted a number of unreached, “untouchable caste” people groups in the Delhi area. In fact, his doctoral thesis was set to cover the Chamar people. The Chamar number over 51 million in India. Only 0.5% of these 51 million are born-again believers. God used Edward to start a movement among the Chamar people.

It was my honor to be at his home when he first planted a church in the cramped living room of his apartment on the north side of the bustling Delhi metropolis. Just one year later, I was in the same apartment, only to find 70 people tightly packed and worshipping Jesus.

BUILDING ON EDWARD’S LEGACY

Within two hours of his passing, at about 11 pm at night, more than 1,000 people showed up to mourn Edward and console his family. The following day, about 300 of us gathered together for an informal home-going to honor a man who fought the good fight, who finished the race, who is now home with Jesus. Edward’s life and legacy shine like a beacon.

Two years have passed since Edward began his work among the Chamar people. Over this time his congregation and missions school have moved to a larger facility. But Edward lived understanding how much work had yet to be done. He had planned to give his life to this cause, and those now in leadership roles here strive to keep building, sharing, and giving.

Edward wasn’t just a minister. He was a husband to his wife, Hersia, and a father of two children in their teen years, Allen and Edwin. Even in the midst of processing their loss, Hersia and Edward’s ministry partners have taken up Edward’s ministry to build on the church and missions school.

It is my opinion, as well as everyone else who knew him, that Edward had too few years on this earth; he had so much left to give and accomplish. But in God’s great wisdom and sovereignty, I recognize our loss is heaven’s gain. As I sought to console Edward’s son, Allan, shortly after his father’s passing he made a remarkable statement, “Here in India, my dad accomplished more in two years than many could in 70 years.”

Allan is right. Edward lived with eternity in mind. He set forth every day – in a region where many efforts are made to keep the light of the Lord away – to bring God’s kingdom to unreached peoples. Edward, my friend, you are an inspiration. You introduced hundreds to the redemption found through Christ and gave your life to the most important cause. We will strive every day to build on your legacy, through India and beyond.

 

This article is from the Spring 2019 Issue of coMission Magazine.

Freedom Becomes Real: Experience the Power of the Cross

“How can I experience a deeper work of Christ in my life?” As we know, the message of the Cross is the transforming power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. Though we were spiritually dead because of our sins, God brought us life and forgave all of our transgression. We became new creations in Christ, born of the Spirit of God, and delivered from the guilt of sin.

This new life also involves the process of being saved. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). What does that mean?

SIN IS NO LONGER THE MASTER

God’s will for you and me is to be continually transformed into Christ’s image by the work of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). This continual change was made possible only by what Jesus accomplished on the cross when He broke the enslaving bondage of Sin. From God’s perspective, when Jesus took away the sin of the world, you and I, as sinful persons, also were crucified along with Him (Gal. 2:20). Therefore, whether or not we understand it, the day we were born again we also were separated from Sin as a master who had enslaved us (Rom. 6:6, 9-10). As an evangelist from Uganda remarked, “I am blessed to understand that I am free from Sin as an enslaving master.”

HOW DOES THIS FREEDOM BECOME REAL IN OUR DAILY LIVES?

We can choose to see ourselves in the true light of the cross. In spite of feelings, we can count on and embrace the fact that we already have been separated from Sin as the enslaving master.

We also are released from the demands of the law and its condemnation. For too long many of us have been trying in our own effort to be righteous and acceptable before God (Rom. 7:4-6). When finally embracing this truth, one pastor in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said, “I have been struggling to live a holy life by keeping the law. Studying Romans, I discovered that the law cannot take me to heaven nor make me righteous. I have to walk by faith in Christ and trust what He has done on the Cross. I have a new life, not under the law but under grace.”

SERVING IN LOVE BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

This freedom becomes increasingly evidenced in our lives as we serve others in love by obeying from the heart the promptings of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 7:6). We are to be men and women who through faith are continually filled with the Spirit and moment-by-moment controlled by His gentle and loving way (Eph. 5:18). We are to “work out” our salvation with the reverential fear of God and a healthy concern to please Him. How can we do that? By God’s power working in us to motivate, enable, and create in us both to will with determination and to effectively do what pleases Him (Phil. 2:12-13). A leader from Nigeria testified, “Finally, by God’s grace I have totally surrendered everything to Him – it has reactivated my total dependence on the Holy Spirit to live a life of victory over sin.”

How can we continue to experience the power of the risen Christ in our lives today? Not by trying to serve and please God in our own strength and goodness. But rather, by relying only on what the Lord Jesus did for us on the Cross. As Paul wrote in Galatians, “I am crucified with Christ by it is not I who live but Christ lives in me” (2:20).

This article is from the Fall 2018 Issue of CoMission Magazine.

Thoughts on the Need of Western Missionaries from Mission Experts

A “ONE SIDED” CHURCH

The argument by many is that it’s cheaper and more effective to send local missionaries because they have “home field advantage.” Despite this logic, the church has proven to be most effective as a multicultural body harmoniously working together. I learned talking to international leaders and partners that some of the best-trained missionaries come from the West, while other nations offer various strengths of their own.

There are all kinds of historic and cultural animosities (i.e., Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs of India; the Sunni and Shiite Muslims of the Middle East; the Hutus and Tutsis of Rwanda, among others) that foreign missionaries have been able to transcend that local missionaries have not. Finally, there remain unreached peoples who don’t have local Christians to reach them. The key is multicultural partnership.

Dr. Jim Raymo – Doctorate in Global & Contextual Leadership from Bethel Seminary and over 20 years of experience working with global missional leaders.

AN OUT-NUMBERED WORLD

There shouldn’t be any debate over Western missionaries going overseas. Sometimes Christians argue that there are enough missionaries abroad and that the US needs to be evangelized. There is no denying that the US needs to be reached. However, the US contains about 300 million people compared to over 7 billion people globally. How can we justify just keeping all our own people at home when the need is so great overseas?

There are Western missionaries all over the world, including friends that we are supporting in Brazil, that are making a significant impact on the field. Why stop sending Western missionaries when God is clearly still working in and through them?

Dr. Ed Dudek – Doctorate of Ministry and Intercultural Studies from Bethany International University (Singapore) and 18 years of field experience in cross-cultural missions in Brazil.

A COLD HEART

The Bible says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.” I would say further that your heart follows where your children go. If the West does not send their people they will lack understanding and lose a personal connection to God’s heart for the world and how He is working in missions. When we see our friends and family go on the mission field, it quickens our burden, passion, and urgency to be engaged in missions. I’ve heard it said, “We focus on the good and give up the best.” If we only give our money we will lose sight of the best – the people that are being impacted and changed.

Dr. Randy Dirks – Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies from Trinity International University and six years of field experience in cross-cultural missions.

 

This article is from the Fall 2018 Issue of coMission Magazine.

Are North America and Western Missionaries Still Needed?

If we don’t stay on mission we will not get the task of the unreached done. But, we need revival, spiritual awakening, and embracing the Father’s vision for all peoples.

Over the last three decades, the number of North American missionaries serving overseas has decreased by 40,000 workers. The total number of missionaries from all nations has also sadly dropped from 440,000 to 415,000 cross-cultural workers. The need for laborers, however, has not diminished, but instead, it has increased! Yet the Church in America has pulled back. This is disturbing and tragic!

AN END TIMES PERSPECTIVE

Jesus’ disciples asked Him one time, “What will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3 ESV). Jesus gave them a number of different signs, conditions, and warnings. But one, in particular, stood out as the sign, “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14 ESV)

Jesus’ response regarding His coming was directly linked to accomplishing two significant things – bringing the Gospel to all places and all peoples.

A SPIRITUAL HEALTH PERSPECTIVE

The power and presence of the Holy Spirit are directly linked to being fully engaged in obeying His commands. The evidence of being a disciple of Jesus is obedience to Jesus. The birth of the church in the weeks following Jesus’ ascension was initiated by two major markers: 1) the Holy Spirit’s power; and 2) Being witnesses everywhere. The last words of Jesus before “a cloud took Him out of their sight” are found in Acts 1:8 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth.”

This command for the early Church to be witnesses through the power of the Holy Spirit has not changed. The powerful presence of the Holy Spirit and being bold witnesses at home and around the world gave birth to the Church and are essential to her future vitality and health.

AN OBEDIENCE PERSPECTIVE

In 1972 the World council of Churches called for ‘moratorium on missions’ after years of what they perceived as overreaching colonization. While there certainly were valid concerns about the Church’s approach to missions, and corrections needed, the church also “grew increasingly timid about commending the faith to those of other faiths.” Many mainline denominations pulled back their missions work, especially evangelism and church planting, and increasingly focused on social programs without an emphasis on the gospel of the kingdom. Their decline accelerated with this decision.

Two years later, in 1974, the Lausanne Conference for World Evangelization was held in Lausanne, Switzerland. This was a conference of evangelical leaders, churches, and organizations that took a fresh look at the modern missions challenge. During this conference Dr. Ralph Winter introduced the concept of Unreached People Groups, thereby framing the Great Commission in terms of ethnic groups, rather than geo-political nations. This identification and definition brought a focus on reaching all nations/peoples. It caused a growth of missions among evangelical churches and mission organizations.

However, tragically, in the past 3 decades, much of the evangelical church in North America has pulled back from sending workers. No matter what reasons could be stated fundamentally, the implications are that the church in North America has shifted its responsibility for sending missionaries to the growing Church in the Global South and East. The growth of the majority world church is tremendous, but it does not relieve us of our responsibility to obey Jesus’ command to “go.” (Matt 28:18) We still have a role and a responsibility to be fully engaged. We must work alongside the global Church as partners and co-laborers in the Gospel.

To be ready and engaged with the Father’s agenda, to be spiritually renewed and vibrant, and to obey Jesus, all of must increase our efforts in strategic ways to make Him known “in all the world (geography) as a testimony to all nations (ethno-linguistic peoples).” (Matt 24:14) Obeying Jesus’ commands is fundamental to our spiritual future and health.

WHAT IS OUR ROLE IN MISSIONS?

There is a Biblical example beginning in Acts 4 that tracks the story of Barnabas and gives some valuable insights about our role today. Barnabas sold land and gave the money to meet the needs of the early church. He advocated for the young Saul (Paul) and brought him to the Apostles. Barnabas discipled the new believers in Antioch and then invited Saul of Tarsus (Paul) to join him. He took Saul on his first missionary journey – it started off as “Barnabas and Saul” and ended up as “Paul and Barnabas.” Barnabas was willing and ready to step out of the way to allow young and fresh leadership to emerge.

Barnabas was no slouch! He was considered an apostle and a capable teacher and leader. He never stopped fulfilling what God had given him to do. His model of servant leadership applies to 21st-century missions.

Barnabas was identified as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” (Acts 11:24) He was spiritually vibrant and healthy. And where he went, God worked as “a great many people were added to the Lord.”

WHERE GOD IS WORKING

The Holy Spirit works at the edges of the kingdom – at the front edge of spiritual advance. We the Church (no matter where in the world) must be active in personally proclaiming and demonstrating the Gospel of the Kingdom everywhere and among all peoples – in and beyond our own “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Here are some key ways we can serve and work together:

  • Sending new generations of workers (American and all nationalities). Barnabas discipled new believers, advocated for Saul (who became the Apostle Paul), and then looked for new, young leaders in whom he could invest. We too can identify, advocate, develop and invite others to join with us. Barnabas said, “Come with me.” This is about seeing thousands of new North American and global workers being prepared and working together – building a global mission force.
  • Vision and strategy to reach the hardest places and peoples. together with our brothers and sisters in the global church, we need to share in vision and in developing strategies for effectively engaging unreached peoples and places.

Significant advances in initial access to unreached peoples, in seeing first believers and new churches established, and then seeing these become multiplying movements of new believers and churches. It is not just about seeing a few people come to Christ, but working together to see millions of new churches established in our lifetime. Leaving our egos at the door and working together, we labor towards a common goal and God’s glory.

  • Sharing competencies and skills learned from experience. Current day breakthroughs are occurring in many people groups. Leaders and workers from North America and the global church are sharing what they are learning and ways that God is moving powerfully. Lessons western mission workers have learned from successes and from mistakes, especially in working cross-culturally, if shared in humility, can be passed on. After 2-3 centuries of modern mission movements, the western missionaries continue to have the opportunity to share as they stay actively engaged and offer freely of themselves. We find great openness from national missionaries and leaders in the Church in the global south and east to learn from our mistakes and successes.
  • Opening the door and facilitating access to strategic resources for maximum impact. We can help to give access to scriptures (written and audio), evangelism and discipleship materials, language acquisition tools, leadership development, church multiplication, and at times financial support.

The advances that are being made among unreached peoples require that we align our energies and resources for sustained and multiplied impact. This is one way in which we are all in!

To continually have a voice at the table with missionaries and national partners from many other nations, we must fully and increasingly engage unreached peoples. We must freely and strategically bring the experience and resources that God has entrusted to us. We must obey Jesus’ final commission until He says to us “Well done!”

 

This article is from the Fall 2018 Issue of coMission Magazine.

A Disciple Making Disciples in Mexico

Despite the influence of the Spanish during Mexico’s colonial era, the geographical isolation of Oaxaca’s individual villages and people groups, over long periods of time, have allowed them to maintain their unique languages and customs, beliefs and rituals – their ancestral traditions and to an extent their autonomy. For this reason, Oaxaca is the most ethnically complex state of Mexico’s 32 states and it is considered by many ethnologists and anthropologists to be the most ethnically complex region in the entire world.

This complexity has left Oaxaca’s villages largely unreached by missionaries for the past two thousand years.

 

The largest of Oaxaca’s indigenous peoples are the Mixtees. In their own language, they are known as the “people of rain.” Among the Mixtees, there are more than 50 individual people groups, each with its own unique language and traditions.

The religion of the Mixtees is animist, that is, they believe that all things, even animals and plants, natural phenomena, geographic features, and everyday objects, have souls or spirits. Many communities have their own sacred places, like holy mountains or caves where they offer animal sacrifices to appease or ask for blessings from a particular god. They may have a god of the sun, corn, rain, fire, hunting, or even a god of death.

In one village, for instance, the farmer must sacrifice the blood of a chicken to the god of the land before they can plant seeds. So how can Christians reach out to these isolated people groups who have resisted Western influence for centuries? First, it takes someone called by God, who has the courage and the faith to share the good news of Jesus Christ where it has been unwelcome for hundreds of years… a person like Alejandro Rodriguez.

 

In 1996, God called Alejandro and Shayra Rodriguez to work in an unreached Mixtee village in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. They had been there about 9 months, when a group of villages grabbed Alejandro and started beating him. They put him in their local jail with the intention of hanging him via their indigenous customary law of “usos y costumbres” (customs and habits).

Friends in the community alerted the state police of the situation, and they came to his rescue. The police informed them that they should leave that community and that they would take no further responsibility. Alejandro and Shayra prayed and felt the Lord calling them to stay. They lived there for seven more years, and they were able to plant a church that today is still alive and thriving.

Alejandro is a graduate of Bethany School of Missions in Mexico. He caught a vision to reach the unreached of Mexico while serving on internship in Oaxaca. Upon graduating, he founded SIN FRONTERAS (without borders) Missionary Training Institute and sending agency, molded after what he experienced at Bethany.

Alejandro is a member of the GlobServe network and currently has numerous Mexican and ethnic believers ministering among 20 people groups. Through the ENGAGE500 initiative, he has officially adopted 15 additional unreached groups in Mexico.

 

This article is from the Fall 2018 Issue of coMission Magazine.

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