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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.

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

Press Release: OCI and UWM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 8, 2017

Merger Brings Leadership Development Organizations Together to Further Serve Global Church

United World Mission to assume leadership of Overseas Council International, uniting formal and non-formal training efforts that help equip thousands.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Two organizations with a long history of helping grow and strengthen the global church through training and leadership development are joining forces to maximize their impact.

The merger will bring Overseas Council International (OCI,http://overseas.org), based in Indianapolis, under the leadership of United World Mission (UWM, http://uwm.org), headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., effective Jan. 1, 2018.

The two groups have played a largely behind-the-scenes role in equipping thousands of missionaries, pastors, church planters and lay people over the past 70 years. Each emphasizes the development of indigenous leaders for effective ministry in their communities and nations. By uniting they expect to expand their reach and deepen their impact.

Founded in 1946 when a group of Ohio churches united to collaborate for global mission, UWM today has 400 staff serving more than 100 national partners in 48 countries. With an emphasis on non-formal methods, UWM makes ministry training accessible and reproducible to people that are outside the reach of formal efforts.

Established in 1974 by a group of businessmen in Indianapolis to raise funds to support Korean seminary students, OCI—or Overseas Council—today serves 130 partner schools in 70 countries which equip almost 60,000 students annually. Its focus is on formal theological education for Christian leaders who can equip and influence the church.

The combined organization will be headquartered in Charlotte, with OCI functioning under the name Overseas Council (OC), a Ministry of United World Mission.

“This move makes sense at so many levels,” said Dr. John Bernard, president of UWM. “We share many of the same values, even as we carry out ministry in distinct ways. We anticipate synergies that will lead to greater impact in both formal and non-formal ministry training. Beyond economic efficiencies, strategies, and aligned mission statements, we believe this merger enables us to better reflect the unity of Christ’s body on mission together.”

Scott Cunningham, OCI’s interim president and CEO, said that he believed the merger would be a “God-glorifying combination for the expansion of leadership development for the health of the global church, accomplishing more together, by God’s grace, than we ever could separately.”

# # #

About United World Mission

Founded in 1946, United World Mission (UWM, www.uwm.org) exists to develop well-trained, spiritually-formed leaders, and to strengthen and multiply disciple-making churches that proclaim and demonstrate the gospel.  They fulfill this mission by partnering with the church around the world. Currently UWM’s 400 staff serve more than 100 national partners in more than 48 countries. 

About Overseas Council International

Established in 1974 to provide Korean seminary student scholarships, Overseas Council (www.overseas.org) has since grown into the largest leadership development ministry of its kind in the world. Under the banner “Called. Trained. Multiplied,” Overseas Council now “equips Christian leaders by partnering with vital seminaries worldwide to advance God’s kingdom.”

CUTLINE: FUSBC (Biblical Seminary of Colombia) in Medellín, Colombia, is one of the Christian leadership institutions with which Overseas Council (OC) and United World Mission (UWM) have partnered to help raise up and equip indigenous church leaders—work that continues as OC and UWM merge to maximize their efforts.

 

Saying Yes…

We’re still buzzing from the many God-encounters we had last night & here’s how the day unfolded!

In the morning I grabbed a coffee, my reading materials, and sat down to quickly get some time to connect with Jesus, knowing the demands of the day ahead.

I started reading from ‘God’s Generals’ by Roberts Liardon; inspiring stories that highlight the cost of individuals following Jesus, and saying ‘YES’ to Him, despite hardships and persecution.

Naturally, it’s easy to think my husband, Gary, and I have already said ‘YES’ as we came to serve in England as missionaries almost 25 years ago!  But I found myself that morning asking the Holy Spirit for MORE.  ‘I want to say YES today, to ALL you have!  I want more of you, no matter what the cost!’

So I prayed and paused.  A beautiful rhythm of relationship to practice.  Something I’ve learned the hard way over the years.  It’s easy to pray, plow through the day, and miss the divine encounters the Father has for us!  As I waited, the Holy Spirit brought to mind:

‘It’s Halloween!  An American tradition that has surged in popularity in the UK and the community is coming to your doorstep tonight!’

Then the words echoed in my mind from, Bev Murrill, co-founder of CGI, a network of churches we’re involved with:

“Darkness isn’t the reason we can’t shine,  it’s the reason to shine!” 

Step by step, He began unfolding His plan!

As we live in a highly populated area outside of London, that evening, we ended up having over 150+ kids come to our door!

Gary and I were dressed as cowboys, including hats & boots, and with our strong American accents still in tow, many were engaging in conversation.  With each group, we handed out sweets & said we’re glad they were enjoying this American tradition, but also that I wrote a prayer of blessing that morning for each family.  Printed & placed on colourful card, they could take home and pray over their own family.

Great conversations ensued, hugs, from neighbors we knew & people we just met, genuine gratitude for the effort given to make them feel welcomed at our door.  We ran out of sweets, I even began giving clementines away (some kids were clearly distressed at this point), so we turned out the lights and took homemade brownies & cards to a few more neighbors.  The night ended with our neighbors, Nick & Deb, inviting us in for a spontaneous dinner & continue chatting together.

In the past 24 hours here’s what I learned.

Encounters happen when we surrender and say YES to His plan.

It might be the unexpected even uncomfortable.  But so worth shining His light in a dark world!

(Here’s the prayer below we gave to our community:) 

Halloween … an American tradition brought to the UK! 

We’re the Americans, tonight dressed as cowboys from Texas!  We loved sharing sweet treats with you from our home, & we’d love to share a blessing over your life as well.

As friends of Jesus, or Isa the prophet, as spoken in Arabic, we pray that you & your family:

  • Will grow STRONG … physically, emotionally, mentally not living fearfully but bringing LOVE to all you meet.
  • Will grow in CONFIDENCE & FREEDOM not living in guilt or regret of our past, we cannot change.
  • Will grow as one in COMPLETENESS despite setbacks & disappointments.
  • Will experience PEACE in a busy, demanding pace of life.

We bless your spirit to experience all you were created to be.

John 6:63 ‘It is the Spirit, who gives LIFE!’
Much love in Jesus
Penny & Gary

By: Penny and Gary Seithel, Serving in the UK

Training Pastors and Leaders in Cuba


After 10 years of ministry, it is gratifying to hear the following phrases:
“Sembradores has given me helpful tools for my ministry.”
“After Sembradores, my ministry has become stronger.”
“Sembradores encourages me to continue on in ministry.”
These are phrases that you hear from the lips of pastors and leaders all throughout Cuba.

Sembradores is training that has provided Cuban pastors and leaders with tools and strategies based on the experiences of years of church planting work, now with fruit in the mission field. At each meeting, failures and successes of both the speakers and the students are shared, and these nourish the participants with the spirit and desire to continue the work. It doesn’t matter where they work or the church they come from, the vision of expanding the Kingdom of God is what unites us. Church planting is the means given by God and the method used by Sembradores to saturate the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today, after years of work, you hear testimonies from pastors who have seen their ministries grow to be fruitful and successful, and they pass the word on that Sembradores’ training is effective. A lot of them have multiplied into sister churches and leaders, who in turn have continued to reproduce. After blessing more than 1,500 pastors in 36 denominations in Cuba and seeing the result of more than 800 new congregations started and the birth of new prayer groups that have put Sembradores methods into practice, it encourages and inspires us to continue forward in our work for the Lord, which is never done in vain.

We are motivated to train the many who feel called by God to the nations and that wait for us, Sembradores, to train them. In our missionary work, we provide leadership tools, tools for marriages and the strengthening of people’s spiritual lives, tools for the personal and ministerial life of the leader, as well as providing means for each ministry to strengthen its gifts and to reach and serve churches and society.

Today, Sembradores rejoices in respect, credibility, and trust within the Cuban church, which has been reached in all these years of work with United World Mission and American churches, as well as churches and collaborators in other countries that pray and wait for Cuba to give of its people for the missionary work and fulfilment of the Great Commission. It is encouraging to hear each pastor full of gratefulness to the Lord for the existence of Sembradores’ ministry in Cuba.

By: Otoniel Martinez, Serving in Cuba

A Global Gathering

Meet Zechariah.

Bishop Zechariah is from South Sudan, one of the 40,000 lost boys who had to flee their homes and journey, on foot, from political violence to neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya. Amongst a past riddled with suffering, Zechariah became a Christian in a refugee camp and has since travelled across the world and dedicated his life to seeking theological education to equip himself in shepherding his family, community, and fellow clergyman.

Zechariah is one of fourteen pastors visiting South Africa for three and a half weeks in an inaugural PhD program piloted by a partnership between the Oxford Institute of Theological Studies, Stellenbosch School of Theology, and the Barnabas Foundation.  According to research from the Oxford Institute, is estimated that 70% of students who go for doctoral studies in Europe or the States for their PhD’s never return to their home country for ministry. This program is unique in that it allows students to access the best of global theological education with university credentials and remain with their family and not abandon their sphere of ministry. This will be a three to four-year journey of research, writing, and a whole lot of time and hard work for each of these men.

East Mountain has entered in as a community offering assistance and hospitality in any way we can: hosting, helping, feeding, transporting, and immersing them into our lives and activities. One particular event, our weekly Friday braai (barbeque), was a participant favorite and gave us the opportunity to enter into conversations over a shared meal. We at East Mountain find value in connecting over food and believe it is where authentic life and conversation happens. It was around the table where I heard Zechariah’s story and where I was able to absorb so much of these pastor’s unmeasurable wisdom.

Three weeks went by fast, but East Mountain cherished the opportunity to connect with other believers from such drastically different countries and cultures who are truly living out God’s commission to His people. These pastors are literally from all over the world visiting from Ghana, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the Bahamas, Nigeria, South Sudan and Madagascar.  We have been deeply humbled and truly grateful to sit with, listen to, and pray with these inspiring men. Their stories, their humility, and their ministries have reminded us of how many religious, social, and economic liberties we take for granted daily. More than anything though these men have inspired us to press harder into the work we feel we are called to do, investing holistically into the lives of our young leaders and residents here in South Africa. As sad as it was to say goodbye to our new friends and fellow brothers of Christ, we now have not only stories to share, but people and places to pray for and hopefully visit.

By: Megan Buchan, Serving in South Africa

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Walk for Freedom – Spain

Avance España (#AvanceESP) has partnered with a local Evangelical collective of ministries in Granada, Spain called Existe Más Mundo. This is an exciting time of collaboration between ministries to reach society with the Good News of the Gospel while serving social needs. The first event of this budding collective has been to organize evangelical slavery abolition group, A21’s, annual Walk for Freedom.  Granada is a new city for Walk for Freedom.

Please pray for Granada’s first march. We have seen churches come together who otherwise have never collaborated before.  Our original goal was to have 100 people sign up between churches, ministry, and those in the community not even related to the church. We are well past that goal.

October 14th, the annual Walk for Freedom. Look on the map for a city near you – http://www.a21.org/content/walk-for-freedom/go8h3c.

By: Kevin Book-Satterlee, Director of Avance España  
Serving in Spain

Spain

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Equipping Leaders

We hear the same stories everywhere: Leaders burning out. Leaders controlling people. Leaders falling. Leaders needed.  We want to reverse these storylines. We long to see Christian leaders who walk with God, preach the Word, and serve in the way of Jesus!  We want to see leaders that thrive and experience joy in the ministry over the long haul.

We equip leaders through spiritual formation, church planter training, theological education, mentoring, coaching, life-on-life discipleship…and through refreshing friendship.

Sometimes we work in formal settings like seminaries and Bible Schools. We have partners in many nations waiting for missionary scholars that will serve in theological education. See Initiatives.

We also work through non-formal training initiatives for church planters, pastors, and evangelists in many contexts who don’t have formal schools accessible to them or who can’t take time off from work for a degree program.  They are already doing the best they can to lead or plant new churches but they long to be equipped more deeply.

They need equipping where they are, just-in-time, while they are on the job.   It is not the degree they need.  They need biblical understanding, skills, and someone who will encourage them and help them grow in Christ-like character and leadership

We have developed creative approaches to non-formal training in many places around the world—and you don’t need a doctorate or seminary degree to be effective at equipping others for ministry.  You would be amazed at the difference you could make!  You may be surprised how prepared you already are to equip others for ministry.

Explore Opportunities.

We also sense a special calling to the spiritual formation of leaders. See Initiatives – Spiritual Formation.