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Read our blog to hear stories of what God is doing around the world, to learn about current trends in missions, and to expand your global awareness.

Fighting for Our Hearts – Czech Republic (Czechia)

At the beginning of this year, in a room of 45 people, someone asked a simple question, “How many of you are here in part, because of the impact Martin (a Czech believer) has had in your life?”

As more than half of the hands raised around the room, Martin’s eyes filled with tears. These were Martin’s friends and people who had seen, first-hand, the transformation in his life. Little did Martin know that entering the battle for his heart a year and a half ago would impact and inspire others to enter the Battle process themselves.  In this tearful moment, in a small retreat center outside of Prague, Martin experienced God’s faithfulness in his own life and in the lives of those around him and began to get a glimpse of the weight of God’s glory.

The group gathered represented Czech nationals and missionaries who embarked on the Battle for Your Heart Process in Czech Republic, bravely desiring to enter into the unique roles they have been created to play in God’s bigger story.

After going through the Battle process together several years ago and experiencing transformation in our own lives, our UWM team in Prague has been curious to see what God would do. We couldn’t have imagined that a year later, our Czech friends would be asking us to provide this opportunity for them and already inviting their friends to participate!

Last September, the first group of 35 Czech nationals began this process, learning more deeply of God’s heart for them and their unique identity in Christ. As I interacted with the university-aged girls around my table throughout the weekend, I began to sense a freedom and lightness about them that hadn’t been there on the first day of the retreat as the reality of God’s love and pleasure over them began to sink more deeply into their hearts.

One of the girls shared the impact that the initial weekend had on her:

“These three months were really special to me. I had never thought how many things can change in something like 90 days before this event. Things and relationships in my life started to change very slowly as I started to experience God’s love and acceptance in a very marvelous and tremendous way. It was like waking up my heart to feel again. To be more aware of my feelings and desires and for the very first time not to be ashamed of them.

 And I didn’t force the things in my life to change, they just started to change! And it was not about me. My team and God are at the center of it. Such a blessing to get to know God’s heart for me better and to find out that I can reflect God’s heart to others. Such a relief that I can be who I am and I don’t have to be someone else. It has solved so many problems in my life and I’m slowly starting to build my life on the rock.

I’m so thankful for having the opportunity to be part of something so powerful and meaningful. And I’m so excited to spread this among the people in my domain.”

In January, many of these people plus a few more took the next steps of engaging their hearts and stories more deeply, thanks largely to the impact that Martin has had in their lives.

As a team, we rejoice to see the good work that God is doing among His people in Czech Republic and it’s with great eagerness that we anticipate what He will do in this country as more of His people begin to engage their unique roles wholeheartedly!

By: Kristin, Serving in Czech Republic (Czechia)

Where There Is No Road

When people think of Fiji, they think of white sand beaches and tropical resorts. They’re not wrong! But behind the beaches and the tourist traps, are some of the most kind, generous, loving people I’ve ever met. In this small island chain in the South Pacific, many people have heard of God. You see, the Methodist denomination brought the Gospel many years ago. But after the Methodist teachers and missionaries left, ‘Christianity’ became an interesting hybrid between God and witchcraft. Worshipping many idols became commonplace again. They knew the story of Christ, and yet it had become marred by tradition and folklore.

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Fiji to serve on a short-term medical team. We landed in Nadi, and then drove about 5 hours to a small village. We were on Viti Levu, the larger of the two main islands. We were connected with a small church there, and we began to plan our medical teams. Each visit to a village would be complete with a full medical clinic, with each person being seen also getting to hear the truth of God.

Many of the people from these villages have to walk a great distance to church (if they are a Christian), or to the doctor, or a store. So we brought the clinic to them. The first day, we were in a small village, but a neighboring village’s chief was there. He asked if we could come to his village a few days later. We, of course, happily obliged. So, the following Wednesday, we arrived in his village. It was eight miles into the jungle, on entirely dirt and mud roads, up hills and through thickets. After we served their village, we left and went back to the church where we were staying. It all seemed very normal, as far as we were concerned.

The pastor who we worked with in Fiji, affectionally called Talla Talla, received a message later that week. The chief from Wednesday’s village would like a church built in his village, so his people can hear the Word of God without having to walk 16 miles roundtrip! We thought were elated then, but we were even more so when we heard that a church in Canada who also partnered with Talla Talla, would like to donate the funds to have this church built!

 

We go down dirt roads to help clean wounds, so that eventually, a small village in the jungle of Fiji can hear the Good News. It often feels like just the small acts: putting band aids on a wound, doing service projects, and facilitating events. But God is at work through that, and where there is no road, he makes a way in the wilderness.

By: Renee Gillespie, Short Term Teams Coordinator

Is This Getting Through to Anyone?

Dots of light from the tin roof overhead speckle our study area as I introduce potential missionary candidates to new ideas in missiology, chronological Bible teaching, and Islamics. We meet in a rural church on the edge of Bamako, with a dirt floor, and electricity only when the generator is running (i.e., rarely!). My students have come from Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, and Mali to join Ebenezer International, a home-grown Malian mission agency that we work with dedicated to reaching the lost of Mali in culturally appropriate ways through tent-maker missionaries.

These candidates have a shared enthusiasm for the Gospel and usually a good knowledge of God’s Word, but are “first-graders” when it comes to modern approaches to reaching the Lost. Don’t you just pitch a tent and put out a call for hundreds to come hear a message, followed by an invitation? This is rarely effective among Muslims, and so they learn about relationship-based approaches, story-telling, and what Muslims actually believe. They are also introduced to the concept of Unreached People Groups (UPGs) who, despite sometimes living near Christians, are virtually untouched by the Gospel. Who knows if one of these students will be the next missionary to the Fulani, the Moors, or the Tuareg?

I spend a month with a group like this once or twice a year. I know that I may not see the results of my teaching any time soon, since this is the very first step in their missionary training and career. But occasionally, I get some feedback sooner than that…

Daniel is a 20-year old high school student (that’s a normal age for high school here) from Guinea. He came to spend the summer with a relative working at this local mission agency, and it was decided that it would be a good use of his time to spend it in my classes. Since most of the other students are university graduates with some working experience, I didn’t have great expectations.

Evidently, my course had quite an impact on Daniel, and here is what he wrote to me a month or two after returning home to school: “The training on the Christian mission that you taught us helps me a lot. I have a teacher here who is pure Muslim, so one day he called on me, speaking to me about Islam in an effort to convert me.  Because of your course, I understood that they have false assumptions on the Bible. So with the help of God He could not convert me. This training Is really important for every Christian.”

When I wonder if anyone is really “getting” what I teach, I remember Daniel, and his newfound confidence to defend his faith before his professor.

By: Jim & Jennifer B, Serving in Mali

Setting Goals

When you think of New Year’s, I’m sure you immediately think of New Year’s resolutions. A fresh start; a new leaf. An opportunity to grow and to be better than you were the year before.

It’s great in theory; but it doesn’t often have the expected follow through. Now, hear me out, I am all for setting goals. I set some each January, too. But each year I hear the phrase, “new year, new me,” and I think we do ourselves a disservice by waiting until the new year to work on becoming the best versions of ourselves. We miss out on the right now by focusing on the future. Each day we get a new opportunity to set and achieve new goals. Every morning brings a new chance to be a better version of ourselves than we were the day prior. So why aren’t we making the most of each day?

So, going into this new year, I am setting goals. But I’m trying to shift my resolutions from being a yearly thing, to being a daily one. I think simplifying this process for ourselves in the day-to-day will lead to greater success in the year-to-year. Let’s conquer 2018, one step at a time.

Post by Renee Gillespie, Short Term Teams Coordinator & Social Media Manager for United World Mission

 

Seeing Jesus Through Visions and Dreams!

A few years ago, we brought a team of pastors and ministry leaders from Mexico to North Africa.  It was an eye-opening and paradigm-shifting experience being immersed in a Muslim country where the call to prayer was heard five times a day, some women were completely covered from head to foot while others walked around in Western clothing, and the mosques were filled inside and out with lines of men kneeling for prayer.  We had gone to serve and support our Mexican friends serving long-term in this country, and they had a business where they were able to live out the values of the Kingdom with their employees.

At their business, we met a young man who shared his story with us (in Arabic translated to Spanish with the help of our Mexican friends).  As a child, “Mohammad” (*name changed for security reasons) had received a book about Isa (Jesus) from a friend, which he read but quickly discarded because it spoke of Jesus as the Son of Allah, more than just a prophet, and Muslims believe that Jesus was simply a prophet like many others.  Mohammed told us, “In my country, you are born Muslim and to convert to some other religion means rejection, imprisonment and possibly death to the ‘unfaithful’ (translation).”  Years later, Mohammad had an eye-opening experience that changed his life completely!

One night when he was sleeping, a man dressed all in white appeared to him in a vision or dream and said, “I am the way, the truth and the life…Follow me!”  Mohammad was completely shaken and jumped out of bed, realizing that the man who had appeared to him was the very Isa he had once read about!  He immediately decided to learn more about this man, but when he told his family about his experience and his decision, they immediately rejected him and kicked him out of their home, in fear of what the authorities might say or do if they found out.  Overnight, Mohammad became homeless, without family, and at the risk of what could happen to him in his country.  Thankfully, his grandmother eventually took him in, and he began to seek more of Isa on his own.

Somehow by God’s grace, he encountered our Mexican friends who hired him at their local business and began sharing more about Isa with him, teaching him from the Book and helping him understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  Mohammad eventually accepted Isa into his heart and became one of his disciples.  He enrolled in college, got involved in a covert campus ministry at his university, and seeks to share Isa with his Muslim friends.  He knows the risks of sharing about Isa in his country, and our Mexican friends continued to meet with him until they were recently discovered and were forced to leave this country after years of working at their business and making disciples for Jesus.  The cost of following Jesus is very high in this country, but many who have decided to follow him as Savior and Lord have seen and experienced him in a way that is undeniable.

Pray for the believers in North Africa who are seeking to follow Isa in a religiously restrictive environment.  Pray that God would fill them with faith, power, courage and wisdom to be his disciples, and pray for many more sightings of Jesus through visions and dreams!

By: Worker, in Undisclosed Area

Following Christ in France

I met Josias in 2005 in France at camp where I was the counselor for his 10 year old brother.  When we all had free time Josias became my shadow, making me sing gospel or R&B songs.  He would tell me about his life in the suburbs of Paris with his friends, most of whom were troublemakers.

On the final night of camp our 15 year old roommate, David, looked shaken up while he was packing.  He explained that he was moved by the camp speaker and knew it was true that only Jesus could save him.  But he felt too unworthy.  So we unpacked grace and when I asked if there was anything preventing him from repenting and receiving that grace, he said there was no obstacle and we prayed right there!  Of course my thoughts then turned to Josias, but my 17 year old shadow was almost offensively uninterested (his words now).

As camp came to a close and it was time to say goodbye, Josias and I both had a hard time managing our sadness. We both knew it would be hard to continue our friendship. Who knew when I’d be back?  Since he knew it meant so much to me, he grudgingly took the Bible I offered as a parting gift, saying only, “Maybe I’ll get some use out of it one day.”

That sentence became my hope and prayer for him and the 60 million French people who are far from God.  That hope led me to join UWM in 2007 with the intention of going to France.  Josias and I spoke a few times and met in 2010, but he was way too busy enjoying life to settle down or stay in touch.  I moved to France in 2012  to work with Brie Church in the Paris region where we immediately reconnected.  By now Josias had married a woman from Congo who already had a daughter, and with whom he had two more daughters.

That Bible, and the testimony of my affection for him, led Josias to start digging into his faith and to volunteer in the same camp.  He began to go to church when he married but remained on the fence about committing his life to Jesus.  Since then I walked with him through a bitter divorce and the loneliness afterwards.  He was angry at God because his ex-wife was “supposedly” a believer.  How could she leave?  He walked with me through heart-break.  We vacationed with his dad, siblings and kids.  He joined my small group.  But he was always on the fence because of unresolved sin.

Until a few days ago…

I called to wish him Happy Birthday and as we were saying goodbye, the rascal said…”By the way, if you’re back in time, I will be baptized on December 16th”.

29 year-old father of 3, rugby player, counselor in a state institution for teens with special needs, and now, follower of Christ.


By: Ricardo Walker, Serving in France

White As Snow


Like most of our trips, this one was full of driving. We drove from village to village, singing and lifting up the people who live in the houses that we passed by. The weather here is turning from winter to spring, so the hills are turning more green and the rivers are flowing steadily. After driving a while, we came to a trailhead that leads to the top of a point that gives a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. It is one of the most glorious spots I have ever stood. Whenever I get a chance to stand up there, it feels like I have stepped right into a picture that the Creator is still painting and shaping. 

Sitting there at the top of the mountain, we played a couple songs and sang them over the valley below. My teammates and I froze as the last words of the last song played: “though our sins are scarlet, you’ve made us white as snow.” At the sound of these words, we began to weep over the valley.

Still wondering what the significance is? Allow me to unpack this a bit. As those last words played, snow began to fall. Even greater, the people who live in this valley are influenced and led by religious leaders who wear red robes. White snow was falling on the people who are clothed in scarlet. The Creator is showering love on the people, even before they have heard His name.

The story isn’t over. The next morning, we went up to a temple, where we were able to talk with some of the leaders there. As one of our teammates talked to the head leader dressed in scarlet, snow began to fall. It was a perfectly clear, blue sky morning, and snow began to fall in that place. Later that day, we visited another temple and snow fell again. As we finished our path along the villages, snow fell yet again, through the sunshine.

Where we saw people still clothed in scarlet, Father sees a people bathed in white snow. He wants to take away their scarlet sin and replace it with a pure, clean robe of His design. For Father so loved the world, He is continually showering love on His people like snow. My team and I are here to play some small part in telling His children that they are made white as snow, and they have no need to fear, because there hasn’t been a day that He hasn’t loved them.

By: Kingdom Worker, Serving in Asia

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Colombia Seminary Strives to Both Educate and Serve

Elizabeth Teaching

In 1944, the Biblical Seminary of Colombia was founded in Medellin, Colombia.  Dr. Benjamin Pearson was the first president.  God`s provision has been constant through the 73-year history under the leadership of God-fearing, Bible-believing men and women. Elizabeth Sendek, a missionary of United World Mission, is now president.

 

The mission of the seminary is to prepare professional men and women who are highly trained to exercise leadership for service to the evangelical church and the community.  The profile of the seminary has always been to be a Biblical institution, with our teaching models founded in Biblical teaching and practice.  We insist in Christian formation focusing on the devotional life of each student.  Being a University Foundation within the Colombian educational system, we know we must strive to maintain our faithfulness to the Word of God and the call that He has made to each one of us.

Chapel

Colombia is in a peace process after over 50 years of civil war.  We are looking for ways to serve the church with the new social/political challenges.  We are involved in a three-year research project funded by Templeton Foundation to study displaced people and how the church can serve them.  This project is titled: Integral Missiology and the Human Flourishing of Internally Displaced Persons in Colombia.  There are study groups to emphasis integral missiology, pedagogy, economics, sociology, psychology and interaction with the public sector.  We have finished a year of research and have discovered who these people are, and this year the emphasis is to write material for courses that will be used by the churches for teaching these groups.

Sara

Several students, including Sara Arrieta, are involved in this research project.  Sara will be preparing her personal investigation for graduation titled: Participation of the evangelical Christian church in the restructuring of the social fabric of displaced people in Colombia.  She will be using Ezekiel 37: 1-14 to show the connection between Ezekiel and the reality of displaced people in Colombia.

Sara has also prepared a field research portion of this project, and is assisting the area of pedagogy with a course on The New Identity. Her project includes studying the sociological literature about social capital, with exegetical and theological reflections and field research with interviews with religious leaders. She has helped the group studying the church involvement in the public sector where she helped to map the organizations that attend victims of sexual abuse.

The seminary focuses on both research projects and practical ministry assignments in the churches each week help to assure the student’s academic learning is applied to social and ministry realities.

By: Don Sendek, Serving in Colombia

What We’re Thankful For…

Earlier this fall, I asked the United World Mission office staff to let me know of a few things that they were thankful for. I gave them no prerequisites, but  I found that there was a lot of overlap (while also having a lot that differed). Here’s some of the responses that we had in common:

We are thankful for our families. We are thankful for our friends. We are thankful for a God who sees us and meets our needs. We are thankful to be able to work for an organization that is working daily to fulfill the Great Commission. 

It’s encouraging to me to know that the things that we have in common are rooted in relationship. Each of us said something along the lines about being thankful for God, His Word, and the people in our lives. I find great comfort in knowing that I am surrounded with people who hold those things in such high esteem.

At the same time, however, we are all individuals with specific things that we love and are thankful for. Here are some of the less spiritual and more personal things that we care about:

We are thankful for thunder and lightning. We are thankful for apple pie and ice cream. We are thankful for new paint in our office soon. We are thankful for new staff and our merger with Overseas Council. We are very thankful for coffee. 

There is so much to be thankful for. I pray that we wouldn’t only be grateful during the holiday season, but that we would choose to see each day through the lens of thankfulness.

If you’re reading this, we’re thankful for you.
Happy Thanksgiving from the UWM team.

By: Renee Gillespie, Short Term Teams Coordinator & Social Media

 

Overcoming the Odds: Jeremiah’s Story

Jeremiah was born into a large, poor family. His parents are subsistence farmers. They live in a small, rural village just a few kilometers west of Mount Kilimanjaro in an area that for years was both economically and spiritually depressed. The area was known for outlaws, illegal homemade alcohol and witchcraft. At one point, there was actually a gang of bank robbers living in town.

In 1997, a local pastor, Wariael Mafie, travelled the area frequently and God began to put a burden on his heart for the area’s children. In 2003, the pastor started a small primary school. Despite advice to the contrary, he registered the school as an English medium school, meaning that English would be the language of instruction. Government schools teach in Swahili, the national language of Tanzania.

Jeremiah was a member of the very first class to start attending the school in 2003. In time, he graduated and went on to secondary school. In the meantime, his family was able to slowly pull themselves out of poverty. The scholarship Jeremiah received to attend school meant that, rather than pay school fees, his parents could use their scant financial resources to gradually improve the family’s situation. This is a common dilemma among the poor – how to prioritize and use their money when it isn’t enough to allow them to do both. When he finished secondary school, Jeremiah’s father sold a portion of the family land to help pay Jeremiah’s tuition at a nearby teacher’s college. After finishing the two-year program in primary education, he earned his teaching certificate.


Today Jeremiah is back at his primary school, but now he is a teacher! He has come full circle and is now helping the current students lay the foundation for their lives – just as he himself did a few years ago. “I am so glad to come back” to teach at his former school, Jeremiah said. “There is no other member of my family who has achieved a higher level of education.” Now, he is able to help his family financially as well.

Jeremiah has also given his life to Jesus Christ. After his father passed away while he was in college in 2015, some members in his family wanted to take him to a witch doctor who would tell his future. Instead, “I ran to Jesus because there is eternal life. I have committed my heart to Jesus Christ.” He is now an active member of Pastor Wariael’s church. “I am teaching Sunday school,” he beamed. He has quickly become one of the school’s prayer warriors.

Jeremiah is the embodiment of the vision God gave to Pastor Wariael – twenty years in the making.

By: David and Mary Ann Taylor, Serving in Tanzania