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Articles Tagged with: Issue 3

Reaching Beyond Our Culture the Value of an Intercultural Education for All

A few years ago while attending a conference in South Korea, I was asked to preach in a local church. This, of course, required a translator since my Korean is less than fluent! Afterward, I was introduced to the elders of the church, who thanked me for the message and then very formally presented me with an honorarium. I informally said thank you and pocketed the gift. A deafening silence followed. Later I discovered that my casual response was culturally completely inappropriate. I had heard of “high” and “low” context cultures (formal events treated with a high degree of respect for the moment versus informal, relaxed unceremonious demeanor), but I failed to discern on this important occasion that my informality was perceived as disrespect which, in the end, undermined my earlier message.

My experience is one example of the need to learn and apply cross-cultural education. Most of us have a much more deeply-rooted ethnocentric (our own culture is central and obviously most appropriate), culturally bound, and often unrecognized outlook than we would prefer to admit.

In many contexts our increasingly global world requires knowledge and appreciation of other cultures. Whether simply in daily interaction with neighbors or our interactions during work or ministry, we need to understand why people behave and react the way they do. Many of us too quickly misjudge a person of a different culture because we do not understand what is behind actions and reactions. To be effective communicators in this international world, we must be able to detect cultural differences. This requires not political correctness, but cultural sensitivity and respect.

Here at Bethany Global University we provide an online accredited and affordable Master’s degree program in Intercultural Education. Some of our graduates have found that with this accredited degree they qualify for jobs teaching overseas in International Schools and mission and NGO settings. Christian schools in the USA have also been pleased to accept our graduates for teaching positions. Secular schools in some states may require an additional teaching certificate, but have expressed appreciation for the cultural awareness our graduates bring, particularly in schools with students from many cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

A recent graduate, Liz Stubbs, said, “Completing a Master’s Degree in Intercultural Education at Bethany Global University has revolutionized my approach to teaching, and the classes about the Kingdom of God changed my worldview, affecting my attitudes and behaviors in daily life. As a working adult, the online classes were well paced and easily managed; and it gave me an opportunity to be ‘in class’ with people all over the world, which enriched my educational experience even more.”

What Does it Mean to Take the Church to Where it’s Not? The Future of Bethany International

The original vision to “train, send, and support 100 missionaries” captured the heart of Bethany’s founding generation. It was fulfilled in 1975. In 2010, Bethany embraced the mission to “take the church to where it is not…and help others do the same.”


One of the saddest stories in the Bible is when the Israelites refused to enter Canaan because of fear. In Numbers 14:21, God passed judgment, “Truly, as I live, and all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs…shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers.” God’s heart was (and is) to reveal his glory through his people.

 An Audacious Mission Goal: Engage 500

In 1974, Ralph Winter introduced the concept of reaching every “ethne” or people group with the Gospel—16,000 people groups. In recent years this has focused on “finishing the task” of sending workers to the remaining people groups with no known workers.

In 2015, Bethany embraced the Engage500 mission goal of systematically engaging 231 new unreached people groups along with the 269 people groups with whom we currently work. This is research driven. Unreached people groups are identified, adopted, and plans are implemented to evangelize, establish gatherings of believers (the church), and disciple them to be Great Commission Christians. Pursuing our mission and this goal is shaping Bethany for decades to come.

Building a Global Mission Force

The first strategy is to train and send thousands of Kingdom workers worldwide to impact the least reached people groups for Christ.

Bethany Global University students do missions while they train for missions in places such as Kenya, France, Indonesia, Thailand, China, and other countries being opened up. They encounter God, gain frontline missions experience, along with academic intercultural knowledge (and an accredited degree), and serve to reach unreached peoples.

In addition, our dream is that God’s people everywhere in the world have access to mission training relative to their culture. A global network of 300 mission training schools in many countries effectively equips and sends cross-cultural missionaries. From these schools more than 10,000 workers have been fielded, helping mission fields become mission forces!

Thousands of churches among unreached people groups have been planted in 67 countries. Just this past week I learned that 70 MBBs (Muslim Background Believers) completed their mission training in Ethiopia. And, that in the last two months 870 Muslims came to Christ. These MBB students have taken responsibility to serve the Lord in Muslim dominated areas of Ethiopia.

Bethany’s missionaries facilitate leadership development; support the distribution of Scripture, evangelism, and discipleship resources; empower those with whom they work; and promote partnership. The western missionary’s role is similar to that of Barnabas in the book of Acts—he gave from his resources, advocated the Apostle Paul to the leaders in Jerusalem, led out with Paul on the first missionary journey, recognized Paul’s leadership, and then invested in another young leader, John Mark. He was catalytic in promoting new leaders.

Building Gateway Platforms for Access

We are developing 15-20 Gateway Access Platforms (GAP sites) to serve as strategically placed regional “basecamps” for launching workers from many nations to many nations. Most unengaged peoples cannot be reached by a westerner. But we can (and must) help. These GAP sites build shared vision, recognize diverse gifting, and encourage collaborative action. They are incubators for accelerating training leaders and cross-cultural workers.

Gateway Access Platforms become ongoing support and supply depots for workers. We bring mission training, 24/7 intercessory prayer, and ongoing spiritual encouragement. As individuals, churches and organizations are awakened to the need, see what God is doing, and hear his call, we help them thrive.

 Building Partnerships and Collaboration

Bethany is already known to effectively partner worldwide. We seek to accelerate the spread of the gospel to the entire world. We identify specific challenges and opportunities that warrant collaborative efforts, and address root causes rather than just symptoms. Workers deployed by Bethany bring great value to international partners and facilitate collaboration in strategic regions.

We are developing new business initiatives that foster sustainable enterprise, and have direct kingdom impact. Publish4All is one example as ministry partners in 57 countries are now printing their own books through the print on demand equipment developed and supported by Bethany. These partnerships take hard work and a willingness to “lose our lives” for the sake of the Gospel.

Finally, we love and work with the church and the church knows it. The extended Bethany family provides encouragement, God-sized vision and motivation, serving and empowering the church globally and locally. The church is mobilized to strategically reach where the church is not. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

Growing the Missions Workforce the Future Impact of Bethany Global University

Beginning last fall, Bethany Global University began to experience some significant growth in the student body. Our school enrollment has tripled in the last two years. Looking forward to the spring when seniors return from internship and new January students start, we could have a total on-campus student body of 250! We believe that this growth positions Bethany for even greater things in the future as we pursue our mission to take the church to where it is not.

This growth means change, not just for BGU but for all of the Bethany. On campus, of course, there are many logistical changes: arranging dorm space, changing the flow of the cafeteria line, adding new personnel, working out office space, and many others. It means doubling up of classes to keep student/teacher ratios manageable, with some students taking class in the mornings and others in the afternoons. This impacts every portion of Bethany as now some students participate in their practical training in the morning.

Beyond all of those kinds of changes, we believe that this increase positions Bethany for even greater things in the future as we continue to pursue our vision to take the Church to where it is not. Higher enrollment and greater retention means that more students than ever will participate in the Global Internship portion of the BA program starting in 2017. Global Internship directly fulfills the vision of Bethany by placing students strategically in Gateway Access Platforms—centers of key access to the least reached peoples of the world.

The Gateway Access strategy has now become the focal strategy of our mission, so much so that our sending agency, Bethany International Ministries, has now become Bethany Gateways. The concept is simple: establish core centers we call Gateways in proximity to the least reached peoples of the world; work in partnership with other ministries; and bring the Church to where it is not, through evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. All of this serves Bethany’s larger vision we call Engage500—together with our global partnerships to engage at least 231 unreached people groups in addition to the 269 people groups we are already working among, totaling at least 500 people groups by the year 2020.

Students as Global Interns serve directly as missionaries of Bethany, alongside long-term missionaries and global partners, to fulfill the unique vision of each Gateway and the larger vision of Engage 500. Because they enter their junior year and Global Internship as Bethany Gateways missionaries, they are able to retain their status as missionaries after graduation from the university. Currently there are 16 recent graduates in process to return to the field: a number that we expect to grow significantly as the larger classes form larger teams at more Gateway sites. Bethany Gateways is currently establishing new Gateway sites to welcome the growth. In the fall of 2017 we will add another country in Asia and the Caucasus region to the list.

Passing the Torch in India:How Two Generations Partnered for the Sake of the Unreached

My parents met Joe and Barb Finsaas, Bethany missionaries in North India and Nepal, when they were studying at a seminary in the city of Bareilly, where Joe served as visiting faculty. My father had a great evangelistic zeal and Joe realized it. They started traveling together to many cities of North India preaching the gospel, especially cities on the Nepal-India border. In 1965, my father joined an indigenous missionary society and on his first assignment he was sent to Nepal.

One night my father was arrested by the Nepali police for preaching the gospel and was sent to prison. However, for his release God had already sent Dr. Joe to the city of Kathmandu. When he learned about the arrest of my father, through his close friendship with the king, he got my father released from the prison and immediately sent him to India. This all happened before I was born.

Though in my childhood I never meet Joe and Barb Finsaas, my father always told me about his time with them as one of his memorable life stories. These stories deeply impacted me to make the most important decision of my life either to serve the Lord instead of the world.

After finishing my schooling in 1987, I joined Operation Mobilization’s ship ministry. Then, from 1991 to 1998 I ministered in Central Uttar Pradesh, going into towns and villages preaching the gospel. In 1998, I attended a missionoriented Bible school called SAIACS in Bangalore and graduated in 2000.

In 2005, following the Lord’s call, my wife Sara and I started Nicodemus, an organization dedicated to reaching the most unreached Urdu speaking Muslim people groups in 25 cities of North India where there is hardly any Christian presence. Today Nicodemus seeks to share the love of Jesus through educational and medical projects, business as missions, holistic child development and survival programs, skill development and income generation projects, training and leadership development, and women empowerment.

Closing the Generational Loop

In 2014, Sushil attended a mission’s conference in Minneapolis and visited Barb Finsaas at Bethany. After more than 45 years, the Tyagi family reconnected with Barb Finsaas, the wife of his father’s friend and ministry partner, and opened up a new generation of ministry relationships.

We can Do More Together: Collaborating to Finish the Task of World Missions

Surely, we can do more together than we can do on our own. As we met with Sam Dunya, a Bethany missionary on Bethany campus last fall, it was clear God was overlapping our lives to do something more than we could imagine again… something God has been doing in Sam’s life in Ghana for 19 years now.

Sam, who grew up in Ghana, West Africa, shared with me his first experience of traveling with his father into a village with no church, who worshipped idols and offered sacrifices to false gods. He recalled his burden to share Christ, and his father interrupting him to say, “One day when you are older, you can return.” And, he did

After completing his undergraduate degree at Bethany Global University in 1997, and meeting and marrying his wonderful wife, Jonhild, they returned to Ghana with Bethany, and the church planting began. For years they led initiatives planting 34 churches in the south. However, after visiting the northern region, which is predominantly Muslim, and seeking God for an open door, they got one.

Sam recounts his encounter with a Muslim businessman in Northern Ghana two years ago. They were buying materials to build a church–nails, metal sheets for roofing, etc. In Sam’s words, “The businessman was shocked, surprised; he asked me ‘Guys, this is $3000 of materials! What are you going to use all this for?’ I replied, ‘We are going to build a church in the town of Katekrachi in northern Volta.’ The businessman stayed quiet for around five minute, then he said, ‘Can I make a contribution?’ He gave us $10, and said he wanted to be a part of it. ‘Would you come to my village to start a church for us?’” From here the news spread, and they have been building ever since. Last year alone their team planted over 100 churches. Today they have more than 50 invitations from Muslim chiefs to come and erect a church in their villages (some unreached)

Today, Sam is working with Bethany on employing the GAP Strategy, which stands for Gateway Access Platforms. The GAP strategy is intended to bring intentional collaboration and networking into strategic regions bordering or in the midst of unreached people groups, to work together with local churches for the cause of the unreached.

Over the coming year, Sam is preparing to consolidate much of his training from the six training bases in the south, which are today primarily Christian, into a single major training facility in the northern capital city, Tamale. Tamale provides a strategic position to reach out into Muslim tribes and unreached people groups, and is a place to bring Muslim background believers after conversion to be trained to go further with the gospel.

Their current goal is 400 new churches in the northern region. As Sam said so fondly when we were together collaborating on our partnership, “Surely we can do so much more together than we could do on our own.” Without all of us working together, without you, none of this possible.

We all have a role to play: whether raising awareness, petitioning in the place of prayer, or financially partnering. Join us! If you would like more information on GAP Ghana or Engage 500, please visit us online at