Many years ago when my wife and I were developing the LAM (now UWM) student ministry in Bogotá, Colombia we met Daniel Salinas, a student of mechanical engineering at the National University.
Daniel came from a Christian home, was an excellent student, and participated with enthusiasm in the activities of the group. He played the guitar, led worship, and formed part of a musical group specializing in Andean music.
As the time of his graduation came close, he confided to us a difficult decision he had to make. His uncle had studied in Europe and had married a German lady. He was impressed with Daniel and said that through his contacts he could secure a scholarship for him to study for a Master’s degree in engineering in Germany. For a Colombian from a poor family, this offer seemed like a gift from heaven!
However, as Daniel had considered this unique opportunity, he remembered that he had promised the Lord to give Him two years of his life following graduation as a symbol of his gratitude for the Lord loving and saving him. So he faced a very difficult decision. How could he turn down such an amazing offer! It could influence his future. Not only what he would learn, but a prestigious master’s degree from a European, above all a German, engineering school! Certainly the Lord must have been in this windfall! But as he laid the matter before the Lord, he recognized that he had made a promise, and a promise had to be kept.
Therefore, upon graduation, he shared with us all that he had decided to serve the Lord for two years. We were all amazed, because we knew of the offer. But, he wanted to Seek God First.
One year he worked in our office using his photographic skills in putting together audiovisual materials. Then, he responded to an invitation to go to Uruguay with two other young university grads to pioneer a university ministry in Montevideo, where there was no Christian witness.
As the years stretch on, Daniel never did make it to Germany. In Uruguay he met Gayna, an American missionary involved in the student ministry. Shortly after they married, he accepted an invitation to work with students in Bolivia, and they have been serving together ever since.
Then followed PhD studies in the U.S., and more missionary service in Paraguay. During the years he has become a recognized Latin America theologian/scholar, has written and published several studies on Latin American historical theology. However, his first book was as a heart wrenching sharing of his and Gayna’s difficult years raising their child, Karis, born with cerebral palsy, who died at only 7 years old.
Daniel is now facing another big decision: whether to teach in a Seminary in Medellín, Colombia or a Seminary just south of the U.S. border in Mexico. Significant and important reasons tug in each direction, but as we chatted the other day when he was visiting us on the way home from observing the situation in Mexico, it was evident to me that he was working through his decision, once again, putting God first.
As I think of Daniel’s difficult decision, so many years ago, I recognize that if he had gone to Germany, his life would undoubtedly have been far different from his experience today. He probably would be a well recognized Colombian engineer, with a lovely home and all the trappings. Life has not been easy as a Latin American missionary, living by raising support from the small churches of Utah, where Gayna was raised. But I am reminded of Jesus’ words: Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Daniel’s unique contributions to the church in Latin America must certainly be part of these “all things”, as well as the Lord’s words to him one day, Well done good and faithful servant. I thank the Lord for him and Gayna, and pray for their continued fruitful ministry.
By: Jack Voelkel, former LAM missionary in Colombia and current UWM Board Member
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The Beersheba Project is changing the landscape of Senegal through agricultural techniques and discipleship of young farmers. United World Mission has missionaries serving on this multi-ethnic, multi-agency project. Check out their story…
Aaron & Sara Toombs, Serving in Senegal
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Most missionaries can wholeheartedly agree that this missionary life can keep us very busy. Leading, teaching, preaching, preparing, accounting and administration are just a few things that fill our days and our schedule. So much so that sometimes we forget to stop for the one right in front of us (the one we came to serve *gasp*). We were recently given the opportunity to reach out with the love of Christ in a personal, sacrificial way. Let me tell you about Brenda…
We were in a busy season of ministry getting ready to open the doors of our new Vocational Skills Center for Girls. We were up to our ears in planning meetings, looking for curriculum, hiring teachers, buying school supplies….yada yada (you get the picture) when Brenda came into our lives.
I knew Brenda from my teen moms’ outreach. She was a small girl, dark as charcoal with a shy demeanor and a broad smile, her belly burgeoning with the growing little one carried safely inside. She dropped out of school in 4th grade because she didn’t have the school fees, left home at 15 because of an abusive aunt, went looking for love in all the wrong places and at sixteen became pregnant. She was then abandoned by the baby’s father with nowhere to go. No job, no education, no land, no husband. This is becoming an all too common story woven throughout life in the village.
A few days after losing her newborn son, she was chased from her in-laws place as they simply didn’t have enough money to continue feeding yet another mouth. God placed her in our path at a most “inconvenient” time. As she invited us into her story, I must admit a million reasons for why we should not ‘enter in’ bombarded my mind. We were busy doing ministry (*wink*).
Yet, Brenda came into our lives in a time when God knew we needed to learn another important lesson. We were reminded how Jesus, though He had places to go and crowds to teach, took the time to stop and serve the one in front of Him. People matter. Lives matter. All the time. No matter the time.
So…together with the local pastor we work with, we hatched a plan. Together with his church, we would give Brenda the family she needed. We would co-parent her to meet her emotional, spiritual and physical needs. We found and rented a small house for her near the pastor and his wife. They can provide a family and supervision, and we also enrolled her in our Girls’ Center so she can learn important life skills and discipleship. We now sit with her as she endures her very first trip to the dentist; we scour the open air market looking for adequate clothing for her; we have long chats about discipline; you know, normal parenting stuff yet, in a very not-so-normal circumstance.
“Surprised By Love” is a core value of our mission. In this case, not only has Brenda been surprised by love, but also WE have been surprised by love. As we go on with the daily ministry we love, training village pastors, teaching Farming God’s Way, running the Vocational Center, visiting our sweet widows or teaching young moms about proper nutrition, we are reminded to stop and take care of the one God has placed in our path in that moment. We are forever changed in the messy, the hard, the inconvenient, the joy-filled, the abundant, the indescribable moments called life.
By: Shelley Actis, Serving in Uganda
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Imagine that you were searching for a church to attend. What are some of things that you would include on your list of “essentials” as you visited churches from week to week? Solid biblical teaching would probably make the list along with other things like varieties of ways to get involved, size, location, programs for kids, etc. The list would vary from person to person and from family to family; however, one aspect that would remain consistent would be the absence of a particular question, “Has the pastor been educated?”
We don’t have to ask whether or not the pastor has been educated because theological education is quite nearly a universal requirement in churches across the U.S. The question we may ask is “where has this pastor been educated?” but that question presupposes that the pastor has received some sort of theological education. What we need to understand is that in Latin America, and really across the majority world, it cannot be taken for granted that a pastor has been theologically educated and in some cases, especially in rural contexts, their general education stopped before the sixth grade.
ESEPA seminary is concerned with providing adequate preparation for pastors and lay leaders across Costa Rica and various other parts of Latin America. Any number of ways exist by which this goal can be pursued and span the spectrum between informal, including discipleship, conferences, basic training, etc., and formal which is geared more towards institutional-type learning for academic credit at higher levels (undergraduate, graduate and doctoral). While we recognize the less formal categories as valid and certainly necessary and even participate in them through our own certificate program, the Lord has clearly called ESEPA to provide the latter primarily.
We provide this education in a variety of methods. The primary method of delivering theological education is through courses on our campus in San José and online. We have seven associate’s degrees that can be completed in two years as well as three bachelor’s degrees that can be completed in four years. We also have four master’s degrees – three academic and one practical. In addition to our central campus we also have an extension campus located at one of the local churches in the city. This additional campus allows us to provide classes for students who find it difficult to commute across town for various reasons. Finally, we offer courses through three regional extension campuses outside of the city. These regional campuses are set-up through local churches and are designed to handle a cohort of about 15 students that study a particular degree, normally Pastoral Ministry. The vast majority of our students, especially those at our regional campuses, are active in ministry.
Despite our efforts and those of other institutions across Latin America, there remain barriers when it comes to access to theological education. The most common barriers are financial and a lack of education. ESEPA has sought to respond to the educational needs, especially those of regional pastors, through our regional extensions. The groups we bring together are similar in their education background so we can design our courses around their needs and deliver the courses in a suitable manner. Two of our extension campuses meet for one week every two months. They have a facility that provides room and board for the week, which gives the professor the additional benefit of interacting with students outside of class.
The greatest barrier to access is financial. The cost of higher education is prohibitive and so many pastors simply go without. ESEPA has sought to overcome the financial barrier through a model that allows for local churches to commit monthly funds in exchange for a certain number of members to have access to courses each semester. The cost of one course, not per credit, at ESEPA is $110. The total cost of a 4-year degree is roughly $3,500, which represents a fraction of the cost in the U.S., yet it is a tremendous barrier here.
The agreement that we have reached in partnership with local churches is to allow them a particular number of students full-time in exchange for monthly payment. The structure is tiered in order to offer a variety of possibilities, for example for $60 per month a church can send two students full-time and year round. Normally each student would pay roughly $1,320 to take the same number of classes but through the church they have access for $720. The positive side for ESEPA is that it helps retain students and offers monthly income to cover the various monthly expenses incurred by a brick-and-mortar institution. The tiers continue offering 5 students for $120 per month and 15 students for $240 per month. While these agreements have opened the doors for a number of students to be able to study, the reality is that financial barriers remain that prevent many others from having the opportunity.
Our vision as an institution is to provide quality education for pastors and lay leaders that adequately prepares them for the ministry. In the case of those who are already in ministry, our goal is no different. We want to equip them to better serve the people to whom they have been called. God has used ESEPA over our 32-year history to impact a large number of students and churches. We believe that God has positioned in such a way as to have an exponentially larger impact in the future as the institution continues to grow. We currently serve nearly 400 students across all of our programs with nearly 200 of those students enrolled in bachelor’s level or above.
However, we cannot pursue that which God has called us to without help. We believe that we are forward thinking in our approach but we also recognize that forward thinking is not enough. If you are interested in theological training or if you are interested in helping to make sure that the gospel that is preached in Costa Rica is the same gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ found in the Scriptures, please pray for ESEPA.
By: Andrew Halbert, Serving in Costa Rica
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Global Perspective: Forming Church Leaders to Turn Growth into Maturity
The days when Evangelicals in Colombia were ignored or marginalized as an insignificant minority are gone. The exponential growth of evangelicals in the country—as in the rest of Latin America—has brought a dramatic change in the religious sociological landscape. We have become a significant minority with presence in all spheres of society. This opens doors of opportunity to serve in the name of Christ and also poses huge challenges to the church. A key question is: How do we take the opportunities and face the challenges so that numerical growth turns into maturity and God glorifying fruit, and does not become only demographical data?
Lively worship, massive events, successful church planting, generous sharing, and even social acceptance do not sustain healthy growth. Otherwise the New Testament could have stopped in Acts chapter 2, with the narrative of Pentecost, and an attachment: a logistics manual on how to reproduce it in different cultural settings around the Roman world of the first century.
For 72 years the Biblical Seminary of Colombia (FUSBC) has participated in the formation of leaders for the evangelical church in Colombia and other Spanish speaking churches around the world. We have come to appreciate more and more at least three key elements that the New Testament shows are foundational for the sustained health of the church:
- Rooting people in the Scriptures
- Expressing your faith in your context
- Articulating your faith in your own voice
These give focus to what we do at FUSBC through our programs: B.A. in Theology (residential and on-line), Graduate Degree in Christian World View and Ethics, Ministerial Institute of Medellin (Bible Institute), Continued education (non-formal), and Prison Bible institutes.
- Rooting people in the truth
Jovanny, a pastor’s son, came from a small town. Upon graduation, his denomination appointed him to pastor in his hometown. The congregation did not want him; he was young, inexperienced. But after they received his humble and effective teaching of the Scriptures, nurturing them in the truth and shepherding them into obedience to that truth in their day to day situations, they came to love him. People enjoy enthusiastic worship, but they treasure more shepherding, rooted in God’s Word so they grow spiritually into maturity.
- Expressing the faith in your context
Jovanni took all the traditional seminary courses on biblical interpretation, church history, theology, preaching, etc. In these courses, he was challenged to connect what happened in the classroom with what was happening in our country.
During the worst days of the drugs cartel wars in Medellin, the Seminary developed a course on the Church in situations on violence. Today, when more than 10% of the Colombian population are internally displaced, faculty at FUSBC are working with churches, scholars from other countries and displaced communities on a research project focusing on Theology and Displacement. At the same time, another team is working on a course on Christians as agents of peace and reconciliation, and yet another group teaches on Pastoral care of women. When seminary professors, students and graduates root their teaching and service in the Scriptures and connect it with the context, the church is nurtured into maturity.
- Articulating your faith in your own voice
An avid reader, Jovanni was always asking why the seminary library did not have more books written by Latin American evangelical authors or, at least, from a Latin American perspective. To this day, most literature used in theological education in the majority world comes from other contexts. Writing for a seminary professor in Latin America is a major challenge: you do not get paid sabbaticals or research assistants. In spite of this, one of the leaders of a major publishing project from and for the evangelical church in Latin America told me recently: FUSBC is the single major contributor of authors (faculty and graduates) to this project. Another one of our graduates articulates his faith for the church and the un-churched through his music which is known all over the continent. When the church articulates the truth in her own voice, for her own context, it is growing into maturity.
A mature church is one that remains faithful. The Biblical Seminary of Colombia focuses in theological education leaders to that end. Among our graduates are a great number of pastors, presidents of denominations and faith-based organizations in the country and at a global scale. While some have reached positions of renown, the service of most may never be recognized beyond their neighborhoods. However, they are those who have nurtured believers in the truth all over Colombia and in other Latin American countries, as well as planted churches among Latin American immigrants in the United States and Europe.
By: Elizabeth Sendek, Serving in Colombia as Director of the Biblical Seminary of Colombia (FUSBC)
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“Be careful what you teach in class on Wednesday, because it probably will be preached in church on Sunday.” That’s what my mentor, Dr. Gene Green, warned me, before I first began teaching in Colombia. A former Latin American seminary president, he knew what he was talking about…seminary students very often take their sermons directly from what they learned in class that week. But Dr. Green undersold what a legion of churches and ministries and audiences that theological education impacts. So let me introduce you to some of the students I get to teach at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia (FUSBC).
Wilcar is a Venezuelan who left an engineering career in his home country to come study theology at FUSBC. He aced my classes in Synoptic Gospels and Acts, works as my teacher’s assistant, and has recently been appointed the pastor of a new Baptist church just south of Medellín.
Hanz, our seminary’s former student body president, is a Lutheran, and just finished my class on Faith and Science. Even though he has not yet graduated, this talented and charismatic man is already actively training pastors through one of FUSBC’s extension programs: the Ministerial Institute of Medellín.
Jennifer took Synoptic Gospels with me. Wife and mother of two, she also runs the children’s ministry at her church, Iglesia Cristiana Monte del Rey, and writes monthly articles for their evangelistic magazine.
Giovanny was a pastor with the Confraternidad denomination and came to the seminary for more formal training. Although he is a widower and a single father, Giovanny continues to pastor, and every week he goes into the notorious Bella Vista Prison to teach Scripture and life skills to the inmates.
Alejandro and Andrea studied Gospels and Acts with me, all the while working as the Directors of Young Life for all of Colombia. As Alejandro completes his studies, he is discipling numerous younger seminarians and flying back and forth to Bogotá to manage a nation-wide ministry.
David Eduardo left a career as a chemical engineer to plant a church in Comuna 6, where he ministers to families in a context of oppressive drugs, gangs, and domestic violence. In spite of the fact that he hadn’t taken my prerequisite New Testament Introduction class, David ventured to take my grueling Synoptic Gospels course, and because he is whip smart and ultra-disciplined, he excelled.
Paola came to live with her older sister in the seminary before she was university age, owing to domestic conflicts, but enrolled just as soon as she finished high-school. She’s a second-year student, and in addition to studying, she serves in the music ministry in her local church and also works in a youth ministry in a dangerous neighborhood (barrio de invasión) on the outskirts of the city.
This is just a sample of the sorts of students we get to teach at FUSBC. They don’t come here because their parents are making them go to university. They don’t do it because they want to live in an idyllic and beautiful setting. They don’t do it because it is easy. They all are actively involved in ministry even while they study. And they spread out among all the major denominations of Colombia, distinguishing themselves as the best-educated and best-trained leaders in their communities. It is nothing short of a privilege to work with them, especially because teaching these students has an immediate impact in numerous pulpits and congregations, in major parachurch organizations, and in the prisons and the most dangerous neighborhoods of this massive city.
Of course, if you are a theologian with a PhD, teaching may not be your only passion; chances you are want to do cutting-edge theological research, speak in conferences, and publish books. And you can do that at FUSBC. The seminary recognizes that its future as a university requires the production of scholarly literature, and so they allot a major portion of time so that their professors with doctorates can continue to write about the subjects that impassion them. Likewise, we are in the midst of a major research project on the humanitarian crisis of forced internal displacement in Colombia. We have teamed up with economists, psychologists, sociologists, NGOs, pastors and community leaders for a major three-year research project in a half a dozen different locations in Colombia, with the goal of mobilizing the local churches to be agents of justice and restoration in their communities. Far from marking the end of my academic career, being a missionary professor at FUSBC has accelerated my research far beyond what I could have imagined. Being a scholar in this environment is nothing short of thrilling.
FUSBC’s ministry works—it works great—and as a result, our student body is growing. So we need more professors, serious theologians with a passion to see academic rigor galvanize a myriad of ministries in some of the hardest quarters of Latin America.
By: Dr. Christopher Hays, Serving in Colombia
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For much of the twentieth century, Western countries in North America and Europe were by far the primary senders of those taking the Gospel message to the ends of the earth. Pioneer missionaries left home and culture, sailing the ocean for months, giving up many personal comforts, in order to bring the Good News of salvation through Christ to those who hadn’t yet heard. Facing many challenges such as finances and sickness, shocking numbers of these cross-cultural workers died on the soil of those they went to serve.
Missionaries are still traversing the globe, with many of the same challenges, and certainly with the same determination, to see all peoples worship Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. However, ever larger numbers of the cross-cultural workers of today are coming from the Global South, or Majority World, the very lands that the pioneer missionaries set out originally to evangelize. In the twenty-first century, missions is from everywhere to everywhere.
We have the privilege to be working alongside a team of Costa Ricans with FEDEMEC (the Costa Rican Evangelical Missions Federation) to help train and care for Latin missionaries who are all over the globe.
Costa Ricans – like thousands of other Latin Americans – are impacting the world through church planting, Bible translation, medical care, help for those caught in human trafficking, ministry to children and refugees, and countless other ways. They work with Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, animists and atheists. They learn multiple languages, eat a variety of foods, and ride in the most unusual vehicles. They are mature believers who teach and mentor us, even as we mentor and teach them.
FEDEMEC has been sending out missionaries for over 30 years under fully Latin leadership. We serve FEDEMEC at their invitation. Our primary role with the Latin Missions Movement involves helping to train Costa Ricans before they go to the field, and caring for them once they reach their country of service.
The fascinating training niche that God has given me (Paul) to fill is teaching how to live, serve, lead and communicate in another culture, complete with tools to prevent and manage conflict. I do this through both ESEPA Seminary and FEDEMEC.
Particularly I enjoy equipping our Latin fellow workers with “Cultural Empathy” to understand the ‘other’ culture – both the host culture where they serve, and their teammates who are most often from multiple continents. “Be prepared,” I tell them smiling, “We Gringos and Europeans can be hard to work with.”
Just today I received feedback from a student who is preparing to go out to an unreached people group, and has already had to work with Westerners. “I confess that I always saw Westerners as “heartless” and selfish people but now I understand that it is not that they intentionally hurt other people but simply that their thinking is totally different from our culture.” Yes!! This is the kind of open-minded breakthrough we look for, a sign that a worker is likely ready to serve in a multicultural team.
Beginning in 2002 we assisted FEDEMEC in developing their candidate training program, which is now directed by a Costa Rican. Over the years of training we came to know and love so many of the workers that we fell very naturally into a role of caring for them. Now we form part of the FEDEMEC Member Care team. We maintain regular contact with our share of the missionaries, and we not only check on how they are doing, but we also try to share general news from home, like Costa Rican soccer standings or weather and volcano updates. Our goal is to develop a relationship of love and trust. We build on our own experiences as missionaries as we help our workers to deal with team difficulties, raise third culture kids, develop healthy marriages, and learn to be resilient while living with the day to day stresses of another culture.
When the missionaries return for Home Ministry Assignment, we help with the logistics involved in getting acclimated during the transition. Once they feel settled, we debrief them about their experiences during the last term. And we try to incorporate fun things into their lives such as outings and meals together. We laugh together, cry together and pray together.
The training relates directly to our follow up care. Nicolas and Naty were having difficulties getting to know, let alone work with, their colleagues who were mostly North Americans, Europeans and other Westerners. We were excited to see them become more hopeful when we were able to coach them on ways to socialize, that their co-workers might be more likely to recognize and accept.
We feel a deep sense of partnership working side by side with these co-workers in the Gospel. While we missionaries are all equal, we are not the same. Latins have shown some definite advantages in their cross-cultural service: making relationships more quickly, being less likely to bog down in doctrinal issues, more flexible in accepting changing roles and goals.
On the downside, finances have been a continual thorn in the side of the Latin missions movement. Because of the difficulty of raising financial support, FEDEMEC is offering intensive fundraising training in their upcoming candidate school.
Is this the end of pioneer missionaries from the Western world? Absolutely NOT! Until the last people group has received the good news of Christ, there will continue to be a need for more pioneers, from any church anywhere, who is willing to hear God’s call to send out workers into the harvest – and we can continue to join hands with believers from all continents to see the task through to the end. Matt 24:14
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Planting Broadly for a More Plentiful Harvest:
God Raising Up Latino Hands for His Glory
“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:7-9
What are we expecting to get when we plant a seed? The answer is the fruit, but how easy it is to overlook what happens in the process! All the fruit we receive is a demonstration of God’s power since it is His hand that intervenes from the creation of the seed, its planting and germination to the harvest.
The Evangelical missionaries who came from many different countries, especially English speaking ones, to Latin America were used by God so that there would be fruit.
For more than 45 years, Avance, a UWM initiative, has built connections between young adults, churches and ministries through their immersion program in Mexico. In this way, Avance contributed to the mobilization of young people in the United States and Canada, while at the same time, helping the seeds that had been planted by several generations in Mexico begin to germinate.
Sadly, many Mexican believers have received eternal salvation without understanding that the reason for being a Christian is to be a blessing to others so that they may know God. However, in recent decades, following others’ examples, some have understood that the Great Commission is a commandment for everyone. As a result, it is becoming more and more common to meet entire families or singles who desire to train, support, and experience short-term missions or to go out as long-term missionaries.
From 2005-2010, we served in Spain with a Latino missions organization with more than 150 adults dedicated to proclaiming the gospel among Muslims. This experience that God gave us confirmed to us that He is raising up new missionary forces in diverse regions, including those willing to go to the far corners of the world where others can’t or won’t go.
Unfortunately, because of the lack of vision in Latino churches, the scarcity of economic resources and poor preparation, many Latino missionaries do not have successful experiences but rather return unexpectedly. They lack holistic care and sometimes even leave the church. Seeing this window of opportunity and with a burden to help change this reality, since 2011 we have been mobilizing Mexican churches, leaders and pastors to missions; accompanying people who have received a calling from God to serve outside of the country (or among ethnic groups of Mexicans); and mentoring Mexicans who are already serving on the field.
We work hard to raise awareness: emphasizing the biblical focus on reaching the world; reeducating about the role and responsibility of the church as a sending agent; and clarifying that we shouldn’t move simply because of a need but rather more strategically, considering the level of accessibility to the Good News and in turn breaking down all feelings of incompetency or external dependency.
God is very good, because in spite of weaknesses, He uses us. Yesterday, a young man, who at the age of 12 saw us leave to serve among Muslims, told us how since then God touched his heart. Now as a young architectural student, he has a desire to serve in missions. We’ve also accompanied a young man from a town in the mountains of Chiapas who is in the process of making his way to Indonesia to serve among Muslims. Just last week we interviewed another family and two singles with similar hearts for the people of Indonesia.
But is it really realistic for Mexicans and other Latinos to go to other parts of the world to preach the Good News? We believe so, because for God everything is possible, and every day there are more people with this calling. In this case, how can Latinos support missionary work? The same as any other believer in the hands of God, because this doesn’t depend on human structures, but rather on the vision and power that the Holy Spirit gives to those who desire to obey. Furthermore, throughout the centuries, God has designed the Latino race with an infinite number of characteristics that helps them fit into strategic places with limited access, such as Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu contexts, or even in areas of North America and Europe where there is a high presence of these groups.
Some of these characteristics are:
- Coming from third world (economically developing) countries that were colonized
- Originating in countries that don’t have a conflicting, economic/political agenda with the countries where they are going
- Having a mixture of Asian, European, and African features that provides them with significant physical similarities with the people of those countries
- Having experienced, themselves, the implications of living in a country with high levels of economic inequality, which helps them be empathetic towards people and relate with greater ease
- Having non-North American concept and management of time
- Belonging to a relational cultural with strong family bonds
Because of all the above, we believe in the importance of continuing to channel all of our efforts and resources to help, accompany, and encourage Latino churches so that they continue planting the Seed around the world.
For many centuries Mexico has been a mission field, and there are still regions with little evangelical presence, so the door remains open to initiate outreach projects in strategic locations, such as the Southern zone and among ethnicities in Oaxaca. Nevertheless, it’s time for Latinos to understand that the labor remaining for the harvest will be completed faster and in a more effective way if we realize how strategic and biblical it is to work united in interdependence.
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My home church, Elmbrook Church, in Brookfield, WI, supports and works with over 80 missionaries, mission organizations, and apprentices around the world. It is truly a blessing to be a part of the Elmbrook family, and the almost 60-year history of a church with a heart and DNA for mission. Elmbrook is a non-denominational church with an average weekend worship attendance of about 6,000 at four worship services.
Elmbrook played a vital role in my preparation and development for mission. We have a Study Center in conjunction with Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and I was able to get a M.A. in Christian Studies by attending night classes. My field education included leading a small group to Prague to partner with Elmbrook missionaries and a local ministry there, serving in an administrative capacity to support the International Center, and doing a summer internship with Bibelseminar Bonn and To All Nations, the German partner organizations who invited me to serve full-time. Elmbrook provided cross-cultural training for short term teams, along with a number of leadership development seminars and conferences. I was also very actively involved in leading men’s and mixed small groups.
Our Pastor of Mission and his staff serve as mentors and coaches for potential missionaries as we continue to develop a missionary pipeline. We often met at each other’s homes, to hear the calling God has placed on our hearts, pray for and encourage one another, help to identify resources, validate calling to serve and selection of a mission agency that will provide the best fit for ministry. This was also a wonderful opportunity to meet Elmbrook leadership and staff, learn about Elmbrook’s mission strategies and mission structures, other missionaries, and local and global work and partnerships.
The commitment to local and global mission starts with and is modeled by our pastoral leadership and staff. Many travel the globe preaching, teaching and supporting the work of Elmbrook missionaries and expanding opportunities to further Kingdom work. Staff and church members come every year to minister in local churches in Germany and Austria. Our Senior Associate Pastor of Leadership Development, has come to Germany every year to help us put on Men’s Conferences. We have translated some of his materials and are consulting with local churches to help them better minister to men and build a leadership pipeline. When these pastors return to Elmbrook, they incorporate stories from their Germany experiences in their preaching to keep Elmbrook informed of our work.
The Faith Promise is part of our annual Harvestfest, a missions festival, and determines the budget to finance all of our local and global work. The current Faith Promise at Elmbrook is $2.7 million, this year alone. That is about 24% of all contributions. That is a huge financial commitment to missions. In recent years, we have combined the Elmbrook International Center (a global leadership development model) with Harvestfest, to broaden the global church leadership representation and help Elmbrook members better understand how God is working locally and globally, while encouraging more workers to engage. Elmbrook also provides an Explore Mission Sunday, once per month. This is an opportunity for missionaries on Home Ministry Assignment (HMA) to share how the Lord is working through their ministries and encourage others.
Elmbrook staff help to develop the mission strategies to provide strategic focus and direction to align all of the work. In addition to the leadership team, other structures are in place to support Member Care by region to provide ongoing care for missionaries. I report to the Europe Member Care group. They invite me to their meetings when I am stateside, determine level of financial support, pray regularly for us and our partners, and conduct my annual review. We also contract with staff from Potter’s Inn in Colorado for soul care and spiritual formation. Elmbrook missionaries are encouraged to meet with their staff during Harvestfest or to visit them and participate in their coaching and seminars at Potter’s Inn.
Elmbrook also has a German Focus Group that consists of people from a number of different churches in the Milwaukee area who have an interest in Germany. The purpose of the focus group is to heighten awareness among Milwaukee churches about Kingdom work in Germany, build relationships with German ministries, pray regularly for ministries in Germany, and provide stateside, logistical support for missionaries working in Germany. Most of the members of the focus group have visited with me in Bonn and other Elmbrook missionaries in Germany. They have provided host families for visiting ministry leaders, students, and missionaries from Germany. In addition, they have provided cars, cell phones, and served as advocates to help connect visitors from Germany to churches and activities in the Milwaukee area. This has proven to be a wonderful way to involve more people personally in mission and build relationships with various German ministries.
In addition, Elmbrook has encouraged life groups (small groups) to adopt a missionary and pray regularly for them. I have several men’s small groups and a mixed group who pray regularly for me. I make a point to visit with each of them on HMA.
Today, Elmbrook includes me on a number of email distribution lists to keep me informed. I also have regular Skype communications with the leaders of the German Focus Group. They are continually soliciting prayer requests and distributing them to the broader group. The Elmbrook website hosts podcasts of sermons and regular information updates about the life of Elmbrook. They really make an effort to keep me informed and feeling a part of the church. The leadership and staff continue to be extremely responsive when I need to contact them. I love Elmbrook Church!
By: Dan Sweeney, Serving in Germany
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I’m a second career missionary. After an 11 year career in Control Systems Design work and pursuing the great American dream, we joined United World Mission, sold our home and possessions, raised the financial support needed, packed 12 suitcases, and moved our family to Delhi, India. We opened this field and showed up knowing no one and unable to speak the language. Why? A strong sense of calling to serve God in missions, particularly to see people come to Christ and the church multiply.
At the time I had been a Christian 13 years. My discipleship was minimal at best. The church that sent us had a strong missions vision that fueled our hearts, but nothing to prepare someone to consider or become a missionary. I knew a lot ABOUT God, but really had very little formation.
Within a month on the field, struggles with the culture, my identity, grief over what was and missed relationships along with a job I really didn’t know how to do yet, led to a breakdown of my spiritual framework. I realized I didn’t have the formation needed to fulfill what God was asking of me. In month 9 on the field, I had a crisis of belief. In a desolate place of heart, I cried out to God and had a significant encounter with Jesus that started deep formation of my heart and a renewing of my mind. God also provided a mentor who walked with me in my spiritual formation.
As I reflect back on my first year on the field, I set off for India to do a great work for God, but God actually took me to India to do a deep work in me. Ministry really began to flourish as my heart began to flourish in Christ. I’m grateful for God bringing me to India to accomplish more than I could think or imagine. I also believe a deeper formation in Christ could have started before moving to India.
As I’ve worked with our missionaries over the years and various partnering churches, I believe there are ample resources available to better prepare new missionaries before they even join a mission agency. If you are a pastor and have a vision for sending out missionaries, how will you begin preparing them?
Here are my top 5 resources to begin with…
1. Perspectives Course – Have your prospective missionary attend Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Perspectives is a fifteen week course designed around four vantage points or “perspectives” — Biblical, Historical, Cultural and Strategic. Each one highlights different aspects of God’s global purpose. To learn more, follow the link.
2. 5 Must Read books – A great book can be a great mentor. Introduce some mentors speaking on relevant themes for preparing them to go.
- a. Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton (introducing spiritual disciplines for transformation)
- b. Fire of the Word by Chris Webb (will stir desire for God’s Word and how to engage it for transformation)
- c. Prayer – Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster (will create longing to pray and introduce many aspects of prayer)
- d. Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning (deals with the important themes of trust and finding joy)
- e. Reordered Love Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness by David Naugle (A Scriptural perspective of the fall of man and how life and relationships become disordered when God is not our deepest desire and first in our hearts)
3. Intentional Formation – help them dig deep into their heart with God. The LCI Exercises by Brian K. Rice is a good resource for themes in the Christian life specifically for those in Christian ministry (leaders and missionaries). Conversations and Invitations are both sold in Kindle via Amazon.com, and hard copies can be purchased from the link in red.
4. Mentoring – Every prospective missionary needs someone to walk with them, to listen well and provide direction, encouragement and prayer. Have someone mature in faith, ideally with some missions experience, walk closely and regularly with the prospective missionary.
5. Engage Them in Ministry – be intentional about having them serve in various ministries in the church and community. This allows them to develop and offers you an opportunity to be a part of their discernment of areas where they are best suited to serve.
A few good resources and a mentor to come alongside is a loving gift to anyone desiring to grow and serve God’s missional purposes. Do all you can do to be a significant part of their journey.
By: Chad Hollowell, Director of Field Leadership & Spiritual Formation
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