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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.

A Momma’s Hope and God’s Protection

“I am the Rose of Sharon, the Lily of the Valleys…He brought me to the banqueting house, and His banner over me was Love.”
Song of Solomon 2:1,4

Did you know that African countries have some of the highest populations of twins in the world? In Uganda, twins are so prevalent, even their parents are given special names! Sometimes, in rural village settings, parents aren’t able to care for both children, so they choose to neglect the weaker twin. But not “Nalongo” Rose.

When this 20 year old mother gave birth to twins and her son, “Kato”, had severe digestive and muscular delays, she never once gave up hope, not even when the babies’ father, “Salongo”, walked out, or her own mother refused to take her in. Although “Babirye”, her daughter, flew through all the milestones of her first year – sitting up, first foods, walking – Kato didn’t gain weight, couldn’t eat, and kept her awake with constant, full-body muscle spasms.

Nalongo Rose tried everything she knew to do, then one day heard about Good Shepherd’s Fold (GSF), deep in the sugarcane fields near Jinja, Uganda. She began attending the weekly discipleship program on campus, often walking long distances with both children to save money on transport. She was confident, yet humble, spoke freely of Jesus, knew English, and fiercely and equally loved the frail one year old in her arms and the vibrant one year old at her side.

Through a series of doctors visits, it became clear that Kato (and his mom) could not survive for long in their current condition, so he received a feeding tube and was moved onto campus. Nalongo Rose worked tirelessly to earn transport money so her family could be together. As word spread about this special mama and her son’s unique disability, everyone at Good Shepherd’s Fold wanted to help.

The social worker who grew up in the same town as Nalongo Rose, the new nurse on campus, the missionary childcare helper; each played their part in some way – even if it meant an emergency hospital visit right during church! Nalongo Rose has since been provided with a small home nearby, is being discipled, and has a job assisting with a program for special needs families in the villages. She encourages mamas to keep going, even when times are rough.  She tells them, “Disabled children are like homework that God gives us. If you don’t care for them the way you should, you’re wasting the privilege and opportunity you have to grow and learn. Kato is my child. God gave him to me on purpose. Even though he is very weak and I didn’t know how I was going to keep both him and his sister alive, I knew they were worth it, so I kept trying. I see now how God was protecting us and watching over us, even then.”

Nalongo Rose’s story isn’t done being written and Kato still has a long road ahead, but we’re loved by a big God who doesn’t give up on His children, so we’ll keep trusting in Him to finish the good work He’s begun. As you go through your day, look for God’s banner of love over you. Do you see His hope in your life? Do you have someone who encourages you? How can you help or encourage someone, right now?

By: Adria Hinrichs, Serving in Uganda

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Long-Term Impact

León, Nicaragua in mid-August is extremely predictable: 90 degrees with almost 100% humidity, and the threat of thunderstorms is ever-present. Yet, what happened in my life on one August day in León was far from predictable.

I was 16 – young, and generally ignorant when it came to cross-cultural experiences. I had barely spent time out of the East Coast, let alone out of the country. So when I found myself in a small orphanage in rural Nicaragua on a short-term missions team, I guess you could say I was out of my comfort zone. 

Although I was out of my comfort zone, God used that moment to open my heart to be more in tune with His. On the porch, in that orphanage, in an extremely predictable afternoon thunderstorm in Nicaragua, I felt the Lord impress upon my spirit what He wanted me to do next: serve His Kingdom through long-term ministry. This moment, almost 8 years ago to the day, birthed a passion in me for short-term missions and how crucial they can be in allowing God to speak His long-term plan for His children.

Our God is ‘Missio Dei’ – a missional God. He is sending people from everywhere to everywhere, so that His Gospel may be made known among the nations. While I believe that the key to missions is long-term relational commitments around the world, I also believe that God can use a short-term team to open up our eyes to the ways in which He would have us play a part in His plan for the long-term. God used a short-term experience to reveal His long-term plan for my life, and I believe that He can and will do it again in the lives of those who open themselves to Him.

Will you join us on a short-term team as we support the long-term work of our missionaries and national partners? Will you open your heart to how God wants to use you; not just in the short-term, but for the rest of your life? For more information: www.uwm.org/serve/short-term-teams/ 

Written by: Renee Gillespie, Short-Term Teams Coordinator for United World Mission

Imagine This Life…

Imagine, you are 13 again: young, carefree, waiting anxiously for summer vacation to begin because you are just tired of school. You can’t wait to play, hang out with friends, go get ice cream, or shop at the mall. This seems to be a simple way of life that all children should grow up in, with no thought of today’s worries nor what tomorrow may bring. To simply enjoy life and be a kid.

Yet, this is not the way of life for many children living in Brazil.  They are caught between the daily grind of their parent’s lives shattered with drugs, alcohol, and poverty; as well as their dreams of just being a kid.

Such is the life a young lady named Shayna (named change for protection). I met her at Casulo (Cocoon) which is a safe environment for survivors of sexual violence to begin the delicate process of transformation through experiencing freedom and hope in Christ. Art therapeutic sessions are designed to allow girls to be heard, to be loved and to begin feeling the heart of Jesus who wants to heal them.

When I first met Shayna, I wondered, “How old is this girl?” Her stature was quite small. She was very skinny, adorning pants and a shirt that seemed old. Her hair was pulled back tight into a bun, warding off any noticeable trace of dandruff or that her hair was dirty. I thought, “Does she belong in this group? She seems so young.”

Shayna entered the room very quietly, very unsure of her surroundings. She knew the other girls attending the sessions, as they lived in the same neighborhood.  I observed her hanging onto everything they did or said.  She looked to them to reassure her that it was ok to participate. Her spirit was heavy. She did not smile, nor did she laugh. It seemed too painful to do any such action.

She is 13 but she does not play. She does not anxiously wait to get out of school because she is not able to attend school on a regular basis. She does not hang out with friends unless she has time to attend Casulo. Her life involves waking up every day, washing the dishes, making breakfast for 4-5 people living the in the house, cleaning the house, making the beds, buying the groceries, and preparing the meals.

Her 18-year-old sister lives next door and is about to give birth to her fourth child. Shayna is responsible for taking care of the other three daily. Three of her family members have been murdered: her father, her brother-in-law and her uncle. Life has pushed her down and continues to trap her.

And yet, after 12 weeks of spending each Monday at Casulo with Shayna and the other girls, I begin to see differences in them. We have spent many weeks introducing them to various forms of art therapy and telling them of Christ’s love. Shayna has listened to words of praise music and its rhythm as she takes a small paintbrush in her hand to depict the dreams she has for her life. It’s hard though. The thoughts don’t come fast. The concept that whatever she writes down, or the pictures she might paint, or the creation of broken tile and glue, could ever help her accomplish a freedom she is seeking, is hard to reach.

Nonetheless, at the end of the day, at the end of each session, when I wrap my arms around her and say, “Te amo e estou orando para voce!” (I love you and I’m praying for you), the smile that was once forgotten, is now present. It doesn’t change the immediate circumstances that she must now walk back into, but I am assured that she is feeling God’s love and that He will watch over her as she dreams of playing, dreams of going to school, and dreams of friends, as any 13-year-old should be doing!

By: Jennifer Neptune, Serving in Brazil

Enjoying the Sunrise in Ethiopia

Yoseph Haddis teaches and leads ministry at his local church and has recently expanded his ministry to include mentoring at Youth for Christ -Ethiopia, a local youth organization.

Yoseph’s work is critical to his community. Due to extreme poverty and hunger, many youth are out of school, forced into child marriage, child labor, and human trafficking. Each week Yoseph draws upon his training from our partner school, Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology, to coach small group leaders and gives them tools to serve their communities and be prepared to handle life challenges. He also organizes teams that address spiritual needs of the people they serve. “My ministry is about helping others find hope in Jesus Christ and to passionately pursue the Word of God,” he said.

Although Yoseph’s community faces major challenges with marriage, parenting, and unemployment, his work has begun to have a big impact on the church. First, a new ministry was created which focused on serving impoverished and at-risk teenagers. Then a children’s ministry was restructured to utilize teenage volunteers who are new to the faith, as mentors for youth. The ministry now serves six times the number of children, most of whom come from the homes of non-believers. Yoseph has also developed Bible study materials that are impacting how others are learning about God’s love for them and living in a way that honors Him.

The scholarship assistance Yoseph received from Overseas Council (a ministry of United World Mission) has allowed him more time to study and learn the Bible, and has enabled him to think strategically about the most effective ways to have impact for the Lord in his community.

Meet Sasko – Church Planter in Poland

We met Sasko several years ago while visiting Krakow, Poland.  We challenged him to think about becoming a church planter as he was interested in partnering with us.  We connected Sasko to Redeemer Church’s city to city church planting training and he has been working on his church plant, Christ the Savior.

Sasko has a core team but is always looking for others to join them in reaching Krakow. This city is the cultural capital of Poland with one million people but only 0.1% evangelicals. As you can imagine there are very few believers or churches. If you speak English, are interested in music or the arts they could use your help!

By: Bobby & Teresa LaDage, Serving in Germany

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Prayer Connections

For the past few years, we’ve been taking groups from the States to areas in the mountains with hundreds of pockets of unengaged, unreached minority peoples. The trips are primarily Americans prayer walking through villages and areas they have “adopted”— praying continually, visiting regularly, partnering with locals, etc.
In 2016, we had an American leader come and want to see what this was all about and decide whether or not his congregation would get involved. We took him and some others high up in the mountains (14,000+ feet) in a very rural area where many of the villages consist of only a few homes. As they were driving through a village, the leader pointed west up another valley and asked what was up there. We hadn’t been that way before, so we didn’t know what was there. The leader, who was a very outdoorsy person, asked to be dropped off and allowed to hike up there by himself for the day. At the end of the day they picked him up, and he told them about his day, which hadn’t seemed too remarkable.
He said he had hiked, worshipped, and prayed up the valley. At one point he had been invited into a home. These people didn’t speak any English, and he didn’t speak their language, but they had a great time drinking tea together. He prayed for and blessed the home before he left. After the trip, he decided his congregation would adopt that valley.
The next summer, 2017, we were holding the semi-annual English camps which take place in our city for students from these mountain groups. One of the students, named Z, trusted in God during the camp. Afterward, he needed a ride back home, so one of our colleagues gave him a ride back to his very remote village. His home “happened” to be in the same remote valley, that had been adopted the summer before. And in fact, his home was exactly the same one that the leader had visited a year before! Z hadn’t been home that day in 2016, and didn’t meet the American leader. However, one year later, Z became the first believer in his valley.
By: Workers, Serving in Asia

Woven Through Prayer

Jocabed is from an indigenous people group in Panama and is serving there with United World Mission.   Her story has been translated into English below.

Life is woven through small stories which in turn form larger stories.  In these small and larger stories we can see God working in humanity.  My family is part of the Guna nation, an indigenous people in the country of Panama which has existed for hundreds of years in Abya Yala (the American continent). From the Guna people we learned to live in community and we learned about the grace of the Creator through our relationship with the land and the people.  Additionally, our narratives tell us of the Guna people’s search for a creator.  Each time they celebrate a gathering there’s a time to sing to the Creator and to remind us of the importance of singing to God as an expression of our spirituality.

However, as a Guna community, we have also had our own set of limitations, and one of them was schooling.  There was a time in Guna Yala when only primary schools were available and anyone who wanted to study in a Western-style secondary school had to travel to Panama City.  My great-grandfather took up some acquaintances on their offer to care for my mom so she could live with them and go to school.  During those times when she lived with them and away from her family, she felt very lonely and far from her home.  As she tells it, “My best friend during those times was God.”The years went by and one day she attended a Guna church where she met her husband and had four daughters, of which I am one.  My dad and mom decided to serve God from when they were very young.  As part of this service, they moved to a Guna community in Panama City called Kuna Nega.  At that time, Kuna Nega did not offer basic services such as water, electricity, bathrooms, and transportation.  We were one of only four families there.  They had received a calling from God to serve him among our people.

When my dad and my mom arrived at the Kuna Nega community, they decided to host a Sunday school, so our first task as their daughters was to invite our friends to our parents’ house to study the Bible, pray, and eat together.  The first Sunday meetings were held at our house, for a long time.  As time went on, more and more families started living in the Kuna Nega community, and more and more children and youth started to participate and make a commitment to Jesus.

These young people and others, along with my family, held various activities for the community, such as parties on Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Children’s Day, and other special days.  We helped the community clean up, build houses, and tend gardens.  We also gathered to eat, pray, and study the Bible.  I remember how as children, my sisters and I would pray along with our mom and dad, asking God to help us communicate the Good News, to be faithful to His calling, and for our friends to enjoy a relationship with Jesus.  This is how God eventually answered the prayers of a nine-year-old girl (my mom) when she felt lonely and acknowledged Jesus as her best friend.

This is also how He answered my dad’s prayer.  He came to know Jesus when he was a twenty-one-year-old university student.  His faith has never decreased, but has instead intensified through the years.  Thus, when he married my mom, they started praying and fasting, asking God for direction as a family so they could hear his voice and recognize where the Lord was inviting them to work.  We’ve served in the Kuna Nega community for over thirty years, up until now, in May, when we’ll finish our time as missionaries.  My father, who was a pastor for over thirty years, has decided to hand off leadership to a new generation.

Many of the members of this generation were there at the beginning of our ministry and started participating while they were children.  I recall that many of the leaders currently serving in the church were like my older siblings, because when I was five years old, they were already adolescents.  We shared life and grew up together.  Now, as adults, we can thank God because the tapestry of prayer is woven from these small stories that become larger stories in the grand history that is God’s love for humanity.  On June 23rd, 2018, a ceremony will be held to honor my family as the founders of this church.  Around 500 people now form part of it, of which over 300 are children and youth.  What began with prayer carries on with the prayers of many, the prayers of those who have come to believe that Jesus is the Good News to humanity.  The tapestry of God’s grace is held together by these strands of prayer, as it creates this grand design of love for all peoples, including the people of Kuna Nega.

Prayer: We thank Jesus for his faithfulness, for calling us to His work.  We ask that the Spirit of God will keep granting wisdom, discernment, passion, and love for people.  May the Cristo Daniki church keep being a light within the Kuna Nega context.

By: Jocabed R. Solano Miselis, Missionary in Panama

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Omar’s Story – Refugee from North Sudan

I’ve had the privilege of befriending 23 year old Omar (name changed for security) from North Sudan. I have been meeting with him regularly to share and study the Gospel. Omar is one of the many refugees living here in France.

When Omar was 8, his parents were killed and he and his sister fled across the desert to Libya. With little water and only dates to eat, they made it across in about 8 days. In Libya they tried to restart their lives and hoped to eventually make it to Europe.

Due to the problems of rebels and Kadhafi in Libya many people where killed, including Omar’s sister. One day he came home and found the house where they were living full of bullet holes and lifeless bodies. Omar himself was later captured, tortured, held for ransom, and forced into slave labor. Without family or money to pay his ransom, Omar suffered with no hope of freedom.

Eventually during transportation of some slaves from one work area to another, Omar and one other managed to escape while the driver was in the mosque for prayer.

Later he managed to get onto one of three inflatable boats crossing the sea from Libya to Italy. Two of the three boats sank killing everyone on board. The third made it close enough to Italy that after sinking the Italians were able to pull them out of the water. Omar has spent the last few years living in the street or moving from one refugee care center to another although still not yet recognized as a refugee.

Through a ministry in our church geared towards these refugees living in our community, I have been able to share the gospel several times with Omar. He has now seen the Jesus film, has his own Bible, comes to church on Sunday, and occasionally comes over to study the Bible with me and listen to Bible stories in Zaghawa, his native dialect.
Although he still considers himself muslim, Omar is super open and hungry to learn about God and His Word.

Please join me in praying for Omar.

By: Ethan Williams, Serving in France

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Building a Fire in Burma

As a young boy, I remember building my first fire. It was exciting to watch it grow hotter and hotter and then bigger and bigger. In my adult years, it would become a place of gathering friends for conversation and would provide warmth for those who needed it.

However, every fire I have ever built, I knew that at any moment, if it got out of control, it could destroy everything in its reach. I grew to love the experience of building fires, but was always reminded of the weight of responsibility that comes with it.

Democracy, like building a fire, comes with mixed feelings of joy and apprehension.

When I carried my camera into Myanmar (formerly named Burma) this week, I listened to the stories of the Burmese who are experiencing their first taste of democracy.

Just like my first fire, there is a thrill in the lights and color that are now spreading through a once desolate nation.

After 50 years under military oppression, these young men and women are witnessing democracy for the first time in their lives.

However, the thrill is tempered with the weight of responsibility.

How do we contain this? Do we trust all the foreign investment that now wants to come in? Now that I am allowed to publically speak out against my government, what do I say? Or instead of speaking out, maybe I should participate in a solution?

It is clear that young leaders across the world are grappling with similar questions of how best to participate in democracy.

As I watched these impressive young leaders passionately cast vision for a better Burma, I was reminded that democracy, whether 200 years old or 1 year old, is to be appreciated and handled with care.

Its legacy does not lie with one person, rather it lies on the shoulders of hundreds of young leaders who are willing to sacrificially serve their nation and maintain this fire, that if handled properly, will provide light and warmth for generations to come.

By David Johnson, founder of Silent Images, a nonprofit organization that provides other nonprofits and charities with professional photography and videography services. Check out their other blog posts HERE.

Help From Historical Heroes

How can a missionary share the good news of scripture in a way that people in a given culture can understand it with minimal cultural barriers?  The same Gospel UWM shares around the globe may be rejected as foreign, as western, or as “un-Slovene” (fill in any other people group here).

Over ten years ago UWM missionaries Benjamin Hlastan and Todd Hunnicutt began to learn more about Slovenia’s Reformer, Primož Trubar.  Together with other scholars and church leaders they rediscovered the simple, clear Gospel that Trubar shared in the 1500’s, and they saw the potential for impact.

Several Kairos moments have followed since then.  In 2008, the 500th anniversary of Trubar’s birth, they co-founded a Slovene non-profit organization to translate Trubar’s works into modern Slovene.  Three key books have come out gaining attention from national media, one during the 450thanniversary of its original publication (originally published in 1564, republished in 2014).  Materials are being used in educational settings, including various videos and an animated biography of Trubar that was made by UWM missionaries Brian and Barbara Thompson and an animator from a church that supports the Hunnicutts.  Countless events, lectures and concerts with Reformation themes have followed in the years since.

2017 was the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation; and Todd and Benjamin worked with others to provide events and outreaches all year long.  After years of work by Benjamin and another scholar, 50,000 copies of the New Testament from the first Slovene Bible (1584) were printed in 2017 by Eastern European Mission.  A book that sells a few thousand copies is considered a best-seller in Slovenia, so to be able to partner with the evangelical churches to distribute all 50,000 copies in 2017 was a massive accomplishment!  Time after time at live events, in open markets, on the street, people gratefully received God’s word; they couldn’t believe such a quality edition of this book which is so important in Slovenia’s cultural development could be given away for free.  All of this has been done in partnership with the evangelical churches of Slovenia and in partnership with various mission agencies in Slovenia and in Europe.

What has been the response?  One person who received a New Testament was literally going to commit suicide the day he got a copy on the town square, but said he knew this meant God is calling him. Another man who used to go to an evangelical church had fallen back into drugs; he was on his way to his dealer when we saw people from that church giving out Bibles.  He stopped to talk and is now coming to church again!  Churches have had people come to church who got a New Testament and then found out about a local church on the Dalmatin Bible website. The first copy of this New Testament was given to Slovenia’s president, and a copy has even been sent to First Lady Melania Trump, who is Slovene.  If 50,000 copies of the New Testament have been given out, that means, we can estimate that around 10% of Slovenia’s 500,000 households now have a copy.  Slovenia’s reformer is sowing seeds 500 years later that we trust will bring fruit in the years to come; and they are planning a reprint of 15,000!

So….how can Christians share the Gospel in a country with a predominant religion, such as nominal Catholicism in Slovenia?  Look to see what God has done here before in this land and who were his mighty men and women of faith.  Trubar is the father of the nation, the one who synthesized a written language out of the various oral dialects of his time, who wrote the first books in Slovene, who started the first schools and libraries.  But like many great men and women of God from the past, he has been defined in the centuries since by the agendas of others, his message muffled by the passing of time and changes in the language.  By breaking the molds Trubar has been trapped in, the Hlastans and Hunnicutts are cooperating with others to claim space for the evangelical church in the public square, they are allowing Trubar to speak once again, they are restating Trubar’s words in ways modern Slovenes can understand and are creatively finding ways for the message to be heard broadly.  The public profile of evangelical churches is much greater, and there has been amazing media coverage. There is no one more “Slovene” than Trubar, so the Gospel cannot be easily rejected as “un-Slovene.”

UWM missionaries are partnering with others to enable his Gospel message to be heard again after 500 years, in a culture that is searching for identity, a people who have rejected traditional forms of Christianity for materialism or eastern mysticism.  His life is a model to a nation as a man of character with a message as relevant in today as in his time.  And Trubar is also speaking into the small Slovene churches with a solid, biblical theology.

By Todd Hunnicutt, Missionary to Slovenia