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Articles Tagged with: Engage500

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.

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.

How to Reach a Nation for Christ: The 7 Stages of Engagement

Bethany International sent its first missionaries to work among the unreached in the late 1940s. Seventy-two (72) years later, more than a thousand missionaries have been trained and sent and thousands of national missionaries have joined them.

Today we are helping to make disciples of Jesus Christ among 269 unreached people groups in 70 countries, and our global team of Bethany and national missionaries have adopted 239 more. It is hard work, but rewarding! These remaining places where the Church is not found are the darkest and hardest places to reach.

Through the years we have identified seven distinct stages of engagement. It is a systematic ministry cycle that begins with the adoption of an unreached people group, then the placement of missionaries, the planting of churches, and prayerfully completing with the now-reached people group being strong in the Lord and sending their own missionaries to other unreached groups

The Seven Stages of Effective Engagement come to life through transformational life stories (some names had to be changed because of the sensitive nature of the ministries that we highlight). I hope you enjoy reading about them!

Stage 1 – Adopt People Group

Prayerfully research and map unreached people groups, area by area, resulting in the ADOPTION of specific UPGs. Missionary candidates are selected, trained and readied to go.

Myanmar (Burma) is a Buddhist country of 54,773,000 people with 49 unreached people groups and some of the most inaccessible tribes in the entire region. The Burmese, with 32 million people, are the primary ethnic group with only one Christian for every 300 people. Much work remains to be done.

Missionaries into Myanmar are engaging 16 new unreached people groups in addition to the groups they are already reaching. This added commitment required much prayer, discussion, and research before the groups were finalized. Our part is helping students be trained as missionaries.

In order to engage unreached peoples, a special type of pioneer evangelist needs to be raised up – those who are able to endure hardship and are riveted in language, culture, and boldness to preach the Gospel. Graduates are sent in teams to engage UPGs as part of Engage500. New workers are beginning preparation to reach these targeted groups with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Stage 2 – Arrive on Site

Missionaries ARRIVE on site to begin the challenge of language and culture learning, as well as the process of developing relationships with the local people.

The process of initial engagement happens in-field after momentum builds. About a thousand workers are in training throughout Bethany partner schools at any one time, and they are being deployed in record numbers to the unreached. And yet much work remains to be done if we are to engage a total of 500 UPGs by the year 2020.

One such effort is being undertaken in Muslim areas of the country of Ethiopia. In one very practical training program, workers are trained for weeks at a time and then sent back into their own unreached Muslim people group to begin work in evangelism. This cycle repeats itself severalties over the course of two years. Once graduates are cleared to become a full-time church planter, they are given support for their pioneer ministry.

In the photo below, a team of Ethiopian church planters pray in a very resistant Muslim area before being stationed there to plant a church. Pray for workers like these who are willing to endure much hardship for the sake of the Gospel. May God give them success as the fruit of their labors!

 

Stage 3 – Begin Discipling

People begin to come to Christ when the UPG and the DISCIPLESHIP process begins.

New churches among unreached people groups are seldom planted quickly and easily. Most often they come into being as the result of intense efforts over a period of several years. Spiritual warfare can be quite intense in what we call “Stage 3”, where the worker begins to reach out to the surrounding communities and people begin to come to the Lord. At first it may be only a family or two who come to Christ and there might be much resistance against those who first follow the Lord in the new area. The pioneer worker’s challenge is two-fold: first, to disciple the new believers; and second, to encourage them to reach out to others so that a church can eventually be planted.

There may be a number of new believers under the discipling care of the missionary before a church is organized. And churches in a new culture might even need to look quite different from the churches the missionary is accustomed to in his own culture, especially in areas where there is a great deal of persecution.

New believers have come to Christ and are being discipled. After several lessons, they have decided to take steps to be baptized. The church will be organized once the new believers reach a point where they understand the roles and responsibilities needed to sustain church life and ministry.

 

Stage 4 – Establish Church

An indigenous (local) CHURCH is established.

Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20 NIV). When can we say a church is planted in the new soil of the unreached people group? The size of the church is not the only issue. According to Matthew 18:20 Jesus will be present even in the smallest of congregations! But it is important that the new church has local leadership, is able to care for one another, including taking care of its own finances, and is able to take the Gospel to others, thus growing in both depth of faith and in numbers.

A basic definition of a church might be stated as: “people committed to Jesus, committed to each other, and committed to taking the Good News about Jesus to others. Certainly, this should be the goal of every pioneer worker, to take the Church to where it’s not.

The church photo below was planted by missionaries who cautiously nurtured the congregation, developed local leadership and helped train them in how to reach out to others around them. The church members themselves, and not the missionaries, took responsibility for the vitality of their church. They built their church building with their own hands using funds they raised for that purpose. It continues to be a thriving church today!

 

Stage 5 – Plant Other Churches

The indigenous church beings to PLANT other churches (demonstrating that the Gospel has taken firm root among the people).

The Church is a family. Like the human family, the Church is designed by God to reproduce. Churches that do not reproduce will eventually die.

The Church in the photo below is not the first church planted by the Indian missions organization that birthed it. It is not the 10th or even the 100th. The Bethany partner that planted this Church has a vision to plant many churches throughout the unreached villages of India. They have a desire to multiply and they relentlessly pursue their goal to plant many churches.

Recently, one of their leaders stated the goal that within the next year he wanted each of their churches to at least plant one additional church. This is the evidence of the vitality of this church movement! Once the indigenous (local) church begins to plant other churches, it’s a demonstration that the Word of God has taken deep root among the local people. This Church takes up offerings form each and every member that goes towards expanding their reach into the surrounding villages and even into far-flung areas in the country of India. It’s great having partners with such amazing vision and commitment!

Stage 6 – Multiply Churches

Church MULTIPLICATION becomes a reality as more and more churches are planted.

Church multiplication is taking place in some of the most inhospitable corners of the globe. The photo shoes a nomadic Gabbra man in Northern Kenya who heard the Gospel for the first time and joyfully accepted Christ at the end of the conversation! This simple way of sharing the Gospel with others and discipling them is the heart of this church planting movement.

In the year 2009 alone the disciple-making movement this evangelist is part of saw 400 new churches planted, many of them among nomads! These new churches need both spiritual and material strengthening. The area they’re planted in is semi0arid and the people are poor in many ways. The ministry is continually encouraging and training not only their new believers but also their church planters. Recently they have asked Bethany to also train them in specialized agricultural methods that work in semi-arid conditions like the one in the photo.

Church multiplication depends on several simple, replicable factors, such as a willingness to sacrifice, a commitment to intense prayer, to fervent evangelism, simple discipleship methods, and local leadership, often unpaid. It’s amazing to see this type of growth taking place in otherwise inhospitable environments!

Stage 7 – Send Missionaries

The gospel grows among this group to the extent that they begin to SEND their own missionaries to other unreached people groups around them.

The Gospel first came to the Ethiopian Kambata people in the 1920s, and the church grew tremendously during the Italian occupation of World War II. The Kambata are now 93% Christian and are very passionate about missions. Bethany’s affiliation with the Kambata, in fact, came through their desire to start a missionary training program, which they call the EKSM (Kale Heywet School of Missions).

This photo shows students from the first graduating class of the School of Missions. At one point more than 90% of all their graduates were either serving as missionaries to the unreached inside the country of Ethiopia, or serving in surrounding nations such as Sudan, Zambia, and even as far as Pakistan and China. Several graduates have served unto death, either by sickness or by suffering, and such is their passion to take God’s word to others.

God’s dream, and our dream, is that people from every nation, tribe, people and language will come to the Lord in great numbers, as the Kambata have, and will catch a vision for ministry to other unreached peoples!

Conclusion

It is one thing to ADOPT an unreached people group, but then the hard work of selecting, training, deploying and supporting missionaries begins.

On their part, the new missionary not only perseveres through training and saying goodbye to family, but then has to be planted into new, often very foreign soil. Then begins the challenging task of becoming comfortable with the language and culture of the engaged people group.

If all that a missionary wants to do is to become comfortable living among a new people group, then that missionary will far fall short of God’s plan for the expansion of his Kingdom. Once there, and ice functional in language and culture, the missionary embarked on the hardest task of all: convincing people of the Lordship of Jesus Christ, bringing them together with other new believers, discipling them, organizing the Church, and then growing the new church into a multiplying, missions-minded church that will reproduce and grow.

This is Engage500. It’s a goal, it’s a process, it’s a commitment. Nothing less will bring people out of darkness into the light of God’s glorious Son. To Him be all the praise and glory.

 

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

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