Category: Equipping Leaders

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

Paving New Roads in Spain

This year marks the inauguration for Avance España (AvanceESP), a sister program to Avance in Mexico. In this post, we interview one of the first AvanceESP participants, Audrey, as she settles into her life and ministry apprenticeship in Granada.

AvanceESP: Audrey, you have been here for just over a month. What has been one of the best things about the Avance España program thus far?

Audrey: The connections!  Kevin and Leah have accomplished so much in setting up the Avance program in Spain.  As a result, I have connections to various churches and Christian organizations all over the city.  What a blessing it has been to spend time with the individuals involved in each organization and to have their loving and prayerful support!

 

AvanceESP: What has been one of the most challenging things for you?

Audrey: As a woman that loves to stay busy by actively serving, I have found it challenging to find close friends.  I am in the Word daily, and I have a loving church community in which I serve.  But, when I spend most of my energy investing in and mentoring others—which is so fulfilling!—sometimes I forget to also seek out a few friendships with more reciprocity.

 

AvanceESP: Since Avance is a mission immersion program asking all participants to come as learners, we try to frame our learning within context (i.e. Granada, Spain) and congregation (i.e. the ministries in which you serve).

Let us know briefly what your ministry placements are and in two sentences describe the place that you live.

Audrey: Currently, I have two ministry placements: La Iglesia Evangélica Bautista de Granada (IEBG) and Existe+Mundo (E+M).

My role at IEBG is to welcome, care for, and disciple young women in the church ranging from ages 18-22yo.  I will also be involved in Sunday school with the younger children and summer activities!

My role at E+M is to help with digital marketing, to participate in caring for the homeless individuals of Granada, and to aid in the administrative aspects of E+M’s organizational structure and event planning.

My host family has four members: Cristina (Mama), Cristi (18), Dani (14), and Alicia (12).  They are so kind, loving, and welcoming in every way.  In their home, I am blessed with my own room that has a window displaying the entire city of Granada, including the Alhambra!

 

AvanceESP: In Avance España we try to frame all that we do around imago Dei (image of God) and missio Dei (mission of God).  How do you see these two missional concepts play out in your daily life and ministry while immersed in this new context?

Audrey: As humans, we are created in the beautiful image of God.  Although I am imperfect, I strive to reflect His image, His character, His being with accuracy.  God has also created me with a unique purpose, and I choose to embrace my identity in Christ rather than in the expectations of others.  Therefore, each morning I place my life in God’s hands so that He might speak to me and shine through me as I interact with others in love, authenticity, truth, and obedience to His calling.

 

AvanceESP: What is your favorite spot so far in Granada?

Audrey: I have enjoyed every part of the city so very much.  Granada is filled with local and unique shops as well as well-known chains.  In other words, it has a little bit of everything!  But, one my favorite spots at the moment is the Río Geníl.  I’ve spent some time walking along this river (even on rainy days!), and I find it simply enchanting.

 

AvanceESP: What is something you have encountered in this city that we can be praying for?

Audrey: Many people in Granada have no interest in hearing about Jesus.  In fact, many individuals view evangelicals as unintelligent and feeble-minded.  For example, when Cristi’s teacher realized that Cristi was a believer, she responded “Oh… I thought you were smart.”  My request is that you pray for God to open the hearts and minds of the people of Spain.  Pray that God will unveil their eyes and spark a curiosity for the truth like never before.


Avance España and Avance Mexico both exist to provide mission apprenticeship opportunities under local, national leaders while immersed in the local context. Through mentoring, spiritual formation, and engagement in ministry, our year-long apprenticeships offer an opportunity for young adults to explore their missional call while utilizing their gifts and education and growing in new capacities.

Interested or know somebody who might be? Inquire here: http://uwm.org/serve/internships-tracks/

*Both Avance España and Avance Mexico partner with Go Corps (gocorps.org)

*Also inquire about the optional master’s degree with South African Theological Seminary

Arousing Hearts for Change in Latin America

Born in Argentina, Overseas Council’s (OC) Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Josué Fernández, is helping to tackle the many challenges for the Church in Latin America. Josué has served in ministry for more than 20 years and has pastored churches, developed a rehab program for youths addicted to drugs and alcohol, and created a ministry to feed homeless children.

Because of his work in the field, Josué has developed personal relationships with school leaders, engendering trust and mutuality. In that partnership, he has been able to navigate a number of cultural nuances and critical factors at play in areas of Latin America, like Cuba.

“God is doing great things in Cuba,” says Fernández. “Through the ministry of Overseas Council, seminaries are transforming communities and having a great impact. In particular, it’s very interesting to see how our graduates from New Pines Seminary in Cuba are developing. In the past they have created ministries that reach out to children, the elderly, and the poor of the Old Havana community. Now they have taken an even deeper dive into the family with a new ministry focused on reducing divorce and keeping the family together.” Government statistics in 2015 found that the Cuban divorce rate was decimating Cuban families (between 65 and 95 percent, including multiple marriages by one person). Even the Cuban government has turned to the Church to help affect positive change in this crisis.

In addition to helping create a new Master’s program at New Pines Seminary, Josué provides counsel to five additional seminaries training current and future church leaders. Through OC’s consultation, these seminaries are building the capacity to be more effective educating and equipping church leaders, who will serve the Cuban family. After 60+ years of Communist government suppression, it’s a blessing for OC to be in the middle of helping to improve the health of the Church and the communities of Latin America.

By: Josué Fernández, Overseas Council’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean

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

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

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

East Mountain

Learn how you can be a part of East Mountain by talking to a missions coach today.

Talk to A Coach

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

Talk to a Mission Coach today to learn how you can join God's work in Spain

Talk to a Coach

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.

Mobilizing for Missions…from all the World to all the World!

When God led me to Mexico to serve with the Avance Program as a single Asian-American woman, I never anticipated how one year could become fourteen years of cross-cultural ministry, from serving the local church in Mexico to eventually mobilizing Mexicans for global missions!  Over the past seven years, our staff has been able to bring Mexican short-term teams to serve in Latin America, Europe, N. Africa and Asia.  We have seen countless numbers of young people, adults and pastors grow in their understanding and involvement in global missions, and we have had the opportunity to walk with many of them on their journey of following Jesus to the nations.  Never did I imagine that God could use my cultural background to serve as a bridge between the US, Mexico and Asia!

When the UWM leadership team invited me to serve as the Director of Mobilization last year, I was humbled and overwhelmed by the opportunity to help mobilize the Church for global missions, not only in Mexico but also around the world.  One of UWM’s goals for 2020 is to help mobilize 100 non-North Americans for global missions, and it is a privilege to serve with an amazing mobilization team, both Stateside and in Mexico!  Our hope is to help UWM become more ethnically diverse to reflect the changing demographics of the global Church and to continue connecting God’s people to His work around the world.  By God’s grace, almost 60 new missionaries were appointed with UWM this past year, and our prayer is that God will enable us to involve more people in His story to reach the nations!

Our heavenly Father never ceases to surprise us as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness as His beloved children.   In 2015, God surprised me with a wonderful Mexican man who desired to support and encourage me in life and ministry, and on July 8, Ivan and I will marry in Mexico City.  We know that God has brought us together to bless the nations, so know that you are always welcome to visit us if you come to Mexico City.  “Nuestra casa es su casa” (Our home is your home)!

I thank God for His incredible provision, a wonderful mobilization team, and the amazing privilege of serving together to mobilize the Church for global missions…from all the world to all the world!

By: Wendy D, Director of Mobilization

Called to Missions

Are you interested in serving cross-culturally? We'd love to talk to you about what God is doing around the world.

Talk to a Coach