United World Mission has partnered with the church in Turkana, Kenya and has seen God move in amazing ways. Check it out below…
By: Mark Dye, Serving in Kenya
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Partnership is a word that would very well sum up our (almost) 5 years in Budapest. Soon after we landed in December of 2011, we began to attend a church called Agóra that had been planted the year before. The two pastors who planted it, Trey Shaw (IMB) and Hamar Dávid, asked me (Ben) to join them as the 3rd leader in July of 2012. Since then, I have served in a variety of roles depending on the needs of the church. Most recently, and perhaps the best fit so far, has been the Steward of the church and Manager of its space, a community center called the Forum.
In these years we have interacted with many Hungarians, and several of them have become very dear to us. This probably resonates with many of you, connecting with nationals in your own context. One of these Hungarians is a young woman called Kata. We met Kata about two years ago when soon after visiting the church, she began to sing on the worship team. She and a few of the other worship team members were invited to our home for supper, hospitality being a big part of our ministry. Our firstborn hit it off with her right away, something that hadn’t yet happened between him and a stranger! She was warm and friendly that evening and every other time we interacted with her.
Last March, we heard that she had quit her job and was looking for work. I was beginning to wind down my activities at Agóra and the Forum in preparation of our summer return to the USA. I had a very long to-do list that seemed impossible to complete at any level. I approached Kata about assisting me for the last 6 weeks we had. We were also looking for a new babysitter, and she agreed to watch the boys for a few mornings each week in addition to helping me. To say that she was a life-saver would be an understatement. She helped me accomplish 10x more than I would have alone, and allowed Megan to have an occasional break that every Mom needs. We grew closer to her, and were able to pray for her a few times.
In conversation with Trey, one of the pastors, we learned that she had been discussing with him her questions on some deep, theological issues. I was able to share with him something Kata had recently told me, “I love Agóra, I love my boss, and it is YOU!” Agóra is a place for healing in Christ and a big part of that is being a safe space for questions. Hungarians are highly intellectual and so group discussion has always been a strong part of our DNA. Kata felt safe enough to share her concerns, to ask her questions, and she wasn’t mocked or shamed as she likely would have been elsewhere in Hungarian society.
1 Thessalonians 5:11-13 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another,”
This is what we did for Kata. It didn’t seem like much, simply thanking her often for her help, and letting her know how valuable she was to us and to the church. It’s not just Kata, though. From our pastor, Dávid, to the other members of the worship team, to the leaders in the church, they all labor diligently. It is our joy and privilege to get to know these people, to love on them, to feed them on occasion, and to esteem them VERY highly in love. That is what we should all do for our partners, because many times their own society does not.
By: Ben Naylor, Serving in Hungary
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There are two key moments in my life that have transformed the way I understand partnership in global missions. The first moment was 10 years ago when I was a student attending Urbana, Intervarsity’s missions conference. Pastor Oscar Muriu of Nairobi Chapel challenged all 22,000 of us in attendance when he compared the global Church to the global body of Christ. He helped me see that the African Church is a crucial part of the body, as is the North American Church. We can’t be the full body of Christ without exchanging our gifts and working together to build up the whole body.
This was an invitation for me to be in relationship with my African brothers and sisters as equal partners, which required a greater depth of humility and vulnerability on my part – to approach missions as a learner and recipient of gifts offered by the African Church. When I started living and serving in different African countries, I began to realize what some of those gifts are: a love of prayer and worship, deep surrender and faith, courage to practice both lament and hope.
Fast forward from 2006 to 2016. I am now serving as a United World Mission missionary with a Congolese-led partner ministry, Congo Initiative. Through our Christian university and other leadership initiatives, we are investing in a new generation of envisioned leaders who are building a flourishing Congolese society. It is here that I’ve been invited to work out what a gift exchange between different “body parts” looks like.
For the last three years, I’ve experienced a deep welcome into the lives of many people, both from Congo Initiative and UWM, and this has transformed my understanding of partnership a second time. I’ve learned that the practice of hospitality is essential to the creation of healthy partner relationships.
In Congo, hospitality has been significant for healing the wounds left by old missions paradigms that involved physical separation between missionaries who lived on mission compounds and local Christians who weren’t allowed to enter their homes. Just the very act of accepting an invitation to dinner in the home of a Congolese pastor and receiving my Congolese colleagues to share a meal at my house speaks volumes. It communicates that we are all members of one body with valuable lives to offer one another. It still strikes me that when I say thank you to someone here for hosting me, his or her response is often, “Thank you for accepting my invitation.”
And just as hospitality between UWM staff and Congolese staff brings us closer to healing from old wounds on an individual level, Congo Initiative’s commitment to welcome American church partners to come to see and join what God is doing here in Congo helps bring reconciliation to the Global Church. These church partners come bearing gifts of time, resources, teaching and research expertise, friendship and prayer to our organization when they visit us. But the paradigm of hospitality reminds us that our African partners are not only receivers. As Jean Vanier says: “Welcome is one of the signs that a community is alive. To invite other to live with us is a sign that we aren’t afraid, that we have a treasure of truth and of peace to share.”
My current role is focused on building partnerships locally and internationally for Congo Initiative, which involves communicating with and hosting people and teams from across the African continent, Europe and North America. It is a privilege to be a part of welcoming my brothers and sisters from around the world to come receive some of the same gifts I’ve received over the years from the African Church. I’m also aware of the generosity required by my Congolese leaders here in Congo both to give and receive. When Congo Initiative receives visitors, our leaders here allow them (and permanent international staff like me) to not only learn about their vision and culture, but through our gifts and contributions, to shape and influence it, too. They show me more of our hospitable God who not only created a beautiful world, but invited his creatures to be active members and participants in cultivating his creation.
The common value of partnership is the reason that UWM and Congo Initiative have decided to work together for the development of leaders committed to building a God’s kingdom in Congo. As you’ve already read, we have partners around the world who visit, pray and support us. If you would like to be a prayer partner with us, you may sign up for updates here: https://congoinitiative.org/receive-updates/.
By: Jessica Shewan, Serving in DR Congo
Check out the video below…
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I have known Pastor Jean Claude Nsana since 1995. Pastor Nsana has trained hundreds of Christian leaders in his role as the Director of the Bible and Missionary Institute (BMI) of the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). As President of the Evangelical Baptist Church Association, he also guides church planting efforts across the entire country.
Over the years, Pastor Nsana has studied approaches that advance the gospel in Congo. During a recent visit, he shared with me that the biggest hindrance to the advance of the gospel in the Republic of Congo is the harmful dependency created when national Christian leaders are subsidized by organizations from outside of the country. To deal with this problem, Pastor Nsana believes that Christian leaders in Africa need to be bi-vocational. He models this value.
As a civil servant, he has a salary from the government to meet his needs. This frees up the church association that he serves to use its resources to plant churches. Pastor Nsana propagates the bi-vocational approach at the BMI. Each class of 40 or more students goes through the curriculum in 2 years meeting on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons. Each of the students have a job to earn a living. They do the work of the Lord in their spare time.
New students often come telling of how God has called them to become a pastor believing that pastor Nsana follows the typical model of finding scholarships from outside Congo for the students. He tells them that if God has called them, then God will provide them with a job to pay for their minimal school fees and books. This helps him find candidates that are serious about their calling. Over the next 2 years, Pastor Nsana has decided to not start another BMI class. He has decided to take early retirement to free up time to coach the BMI graduates in their church planting activities in order to see 200 churches planted over that period of time.
North Americans that seek to work alongside of African national leaders like Pastor Nsana, need to understand what starts church planting movements and what stops them. They need to have something to offer besides outside funding. The best practitioners help national leaders use locally available resources to deal with the challenges that they face in the effort to advance the Kingdom of God in Africa.
Diane and I presently live in Senegal where we coordinate the Professionals for Senegal (PFS) initiative, to train and deploy North Americans to function at this level. PFS wants to be part of the African Digital Renaissance. Our associates offer basic IT classes, participate in professional exchanges, teach English or complete the 3 to 6 month “Frontier Internship” to build relationships that result in sustainable indigenous initiatives in Africa.
By: Paul Ohlin, Serving in Senegal
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“Sylvia” sits on the edge of a hotel room bed. Numb. Her most recent client, moments out the door on his way to whatever comes next. She needs to clean up before the next one arrives, but just can’t move. Her phone continues buzzing every few minutes with clients responding to ads on public websites offering her “services”. Hundreds of calls all day. At night, even more.
Sylvia is one of an uncountable number trapped in a cycle that leaves her prey to both buyers and managers better known as “pimps”. She’s fearful of authorities, and only a shadow of the young girl she was months earlier. Once in “the life” she’s not expected to last 7 years due to disease and a “workplace homicide rate” 51 times higher than the next most dangerous occupation, working in a liquor store.
At the Life of Freedom Center in the city of Miami, it’s our job to provide Sylvia with a way out, though most like her can’t imagine an exit other than death. They’re held by emotional, psychological and even chemical bonds too hard for them to break. It takes an average of 7 attempts to leave the life behind and not return. This is due to emotional and psychological trauma, arrest records, little or no education, inability to land a job or rent an apartment and countless other barriers.
Victims like Sylvia start down the path to trafficking for a variety of reasons. Often as minors (under 18) they’ve drawn in by a “Romeo Pimp” convincing a young heart and mind that they are in love. More often than not, though, youth are in love with the idea of being in love, and desperate for a first romance or some simple attention, making perfect targets for predators.
Others may see it as an easy way to make ends meet. Fueled by a society that increasingly considers sex and those providing it to be commodities, a girl may cover college bills by dancing at a strip club. Here in Miami, one particular club advertises “Tuition Tuesdays” to local colleges, even picking girls up by bus right from campus and delivering them to clubs that become recruiting grounds for buyers and traffickers alike.
Not all towns relate to having strip clubs, and most are shocked to learn that sex trafficking is present in every community across the country. The “red light district” is no longer off Main Street. It’s accessible from any smartphone or laptop, making purchasing sex as fast as a pizza, and at times, even more prevalent. Yet the real horror lies in the statistics of those being consumed:
- The average age of those being drawn into sex trafficking is between 12 and 14 years old.
- Half of all sex trafficking victims are children (under 18).
- In the US alone an estimated 100,000 – 300,000 children fall victims to sex trafficking every year.
These numbers continue to grow as our country’s hunger for sex is fueled by the internet, popular media, and an increasingly seared national conscience. Appetites with no boundaries seek satisfaction in ways considered unthinkable to previous generations. Yet in all this darkness, there is hope. There is a future for those currently being sacrificed in the name of selfish, unbridled lusts.
A few years ago, Claudia and I were introduced to the immense need closer to home. A trafficking epidemic in our communities, schools and with millions of at risk children throughout the country due to a crisis of broken families. In 2014 we joined the Life of Freedom Center in Miami, with the vision of “reducing the presence, influence and results of sex trafficking”. The LoF Center’s education and equipping programs train volunteers to do the heavy lifting in their own neighborhoods.
We provide churches, businesses, student groups and alternative break teams with tools to meet the needs of those at risk or already affected by trafficking in their community. The “Sharing 1 Love” campaign has been adopted by churches in Miami and visiting groups from around the country, enabling them to re-create much of our program and become beacons of hope to girls like Sylvia.
For those who want to go deeper, the mentor program trains and prepares women for something I refer to as “dirty discipleship”. Girls coming out of trafficking know only two types of relationship: the abused and the abuser, making healthy relationship nearly impossible. Mentors are trained to understand the effects of prolonged, repetitive trauma, since survivors have essentially experienced rape 20 times or more a day for months or even years on end, resulting in catastrophic damage to the workings of their mind and entire being. Mentors begin with an understanding that only the Creator and Sustainer of our souls can bring the profound healing needed, and then walk alongside survivors as they discover, fail, and re-discover what healthy relationships can look like.
Mentors also reach into the darkness with a simple candle of hope by actually responding to the very same advertisements that solicitors use. With training, women learn where to find ads, recognize patterns, call girls up to offer alternatives, and record responses allowing us to track their phone numbers though they are moved from city to city. That means if one team reaches a particular girl, the next team to contact her, even if she’s hundreds of miles away, will know how to approach her on the next call.
So, we come back to “Sylvia”. Sitting in the dark on the side of her bed.
She picks up her phone for what seems like the millionth time, and forces out a seductive “Hello”.
She expects the all too familiar opening lines. But then she hears something she’s never heard before. A kind voice says: “Hi, is there anything you need? Can I pray for you…”
It’s God reaching into the darkness to rescue one of His lost children.
By: Kevin Abegg, Serving in Miami, FL
The Life of Freedom Center, located in Miami Florida is a partner ministry with United World Mission.
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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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Given the rapid numerical growth of the church in Latin America, there’s an urgent need for leaders who are Biblically grounded, growing in Christ-like character and actively using their God-given gifts to deepen the walks of new believers and pour themselves into developing younger leaders. Camping ministry has been effectively mobilizing Latins to missionary service and other types of ministry for more than 80 years in order to partner with the work of the local church.
During our fourth CCI Latin America Leadership Summit & Conference, we celebrated 50 years of the association of Christian Camp Leaders (1964-2014) in Siguatepeque, Honduras. It was an inspiring time with all the testimonies of leaders who were impacted by the work of Christian Camping in their lives and are now fully involved locally in our Association, which exists to see every church in Latin America running camps that transform lives in Christ. We heard thousands of testimonies on how God has been calling Latins to full-time ministry through camping ministry. Many of them are involved in pastoral work, youth ministry, children ministry, marriage counseling, Sunday school department, and cross-cultural missions.
Testimonies of lives transformed and equipped through Christian camping.
- Rixi Leiva from El Salvador. Two years in West Africa as missionary working with kids and equipping leaders in the best use of the camping tool.
- Deisy from Panama. Currently a missionary in Malasya with her family translating the Bible.
- Xenia Sánchez from El Salvador. Short-term missionary in West Africa using Christian Camping as a mean to evangelize and train pastors in how to use the tool.
- Bessy Macotto from Honduras. Currently full-time missionary with UWM as Director of Pioneer Program with CCI Latin America.
- Fe from Panama. Ready to leave as missionary to Asia.
- Robert and Nina Bruneau from Panama. Currently missionaries with UWM as Directors of CCI Latin America and Robert as Regional Leader in South America.
We believe Christian camping is used by God as an effective tool to transform lives and to equip leaders in Christ-like character. One inspirational leader is Mimi Cano, who went to be with the Lord last year. As a child, Mimi had never been to camp because her father did not allow her to leave the house. For many years she desired to attend camp and play with other kids. She finally had the chance to go to camp when CCI Latin America offered a course in Lima, Peru, to train camp counselors. She told us once: “That was the most significant, most glorious moment in my life when I played with other leaders during this course. I knew that God had called me to work in Christian Camping for the rest of my life”.
Later, when efforts were made to open an association in Peru, Mimi was on the first organizing committee in 2000; graduated from our Institute of Forming Instructors (IFI) in Guatemala – 2002; and from our IFI-2 in El Salvador. In 2004 she was in our first Camp Directors International Conference in Panama. Mimí travelled for more than 10 years all over Peru, training church leaders in how to improve their camp events using the curriculum CCI Latin America has developed for more than 25 years. Many of our national leaders talk about her as “a real missionary”, considering her commitment to Christ and the sacrificial impetus she gave when serving others around her. Mimi was an indefatigable servant of the Lord traveling the high and the low places of Peru for the Gospel. She was committed to the ministry of Christian Camps.
We have seen that there are four characteristics of Christian Camping, which prepare the leaders’ hearts for their life-time decision, crucial in full-time ministry calling, including missionary work:
- Christian Temporary Intentional Community — Small group dynamic
- Servant Leadership Environment – Christ-like Character
- Bible-centered based program – Spiritual Formation
- Experiential Learning Focus – Combining theory and practice
There is always a need for more missionaries who would like to commit their lives as Mimí did, to share the Gospel of Jesus and to facilitate the growth of leaders through their involvement in the ministry of Christian Camping. We need leaders who would like to serve the Latin church through Christian Camping to develop leaders who are biblically grounded, growing in Christ-like character and actively using their God-given gifts to deepen the walks of new believers and pour themselves into developing younger leaders.
By: Robert Bruneau, UWM Regional Leader for South America &
Director of CCI Latin America
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Sometimes, if you stop long enough, you look around and realize that nothing is new under the sun and that really, my generation is just telling the same story our grandparents have been telling us ever since we can remember. Sometimes, if you are quiet enough, you realize that your words are not really your words, but that you are just using new language to repeat things that have been whispered to your soul by the examples and role models you had the privilege to grow alongside. And sometimes, if you are brave enough, God opens your eyes to the unique, strategic and life altering opportunities he places before you that tie it all together. This perfectly describes the journey we have been on since God led us to open the Latino Center for Mobilization (CLM) in Mexico City about a year ago.
My grandparents, Juan and Elisabeth Isais, led a very fruitful and cutting edge missional life serving with Latin America Mission for over 60 years! If you ever shared a dinner with Grandmy you would hear stories of how God called her on the train, racial and bicultural issues in missions after World War II, changes in Mexico´s laws regarding religious freedom, that time God miraculously saved them from the Nicaragua earthquake, the “joys” of raising children on the field, and stories, oh so many stories, of friends and saints that gave their lives for the mission of God. If you asked my grandfather every Sunday during lunch what he had preached about, he would answer with a simple: “about Jesus.”
It is this legacy, that became the stage for the CLM, a new (but not) space, coffee shop, organization, and community in the heart of folkloric and hipster Mexico City. . . seeking to do the same. To encourage Mexican and Latino young adults to give their all, to tell stories that matter, to talk about Jesus and the lives that He transforms in their day to day life. We exist to lift up, encourage and help share with others how God is using broken people to surprise this world with His power and love!
We know many Latino young adults who are sitting at home wondering how to get involved, or simply bored and unfocused because they have not heard the stories of what God IS doing. They are unaware of ministry models (Business as mission (BAM), tent making, etc.), frustrated at outdated websites and videos talking about missions only in English, and the all too common “American” missionary model that, in many ways, discourages them from considering “the field”. They have not heard these stories “in their own language,” and, sadly, they won’t unless a group of Latino young adults makes it a priority to share them in a way that they can understand and relate to them. If they do not even know that it is possible and what it looks like, how do we expect them to rise to the challenge themselves?
The CLM exists to awaken, involve and connect the body of Christ in Latin America with God’s global mission. We are professional story tellers, and each time we share about someone´s vision, heart or ministry model, it connects with someone somewhere in the world that says: “Really? You too? I thought I was the only one!”
We do this mainly by using media, videos, prayer meetings with recorded interviews on Facebook live, Instagram images, social media campaigns, networking events, and lots of coffee dates. We have a database with more than 100 ministries (everything from anti-human trafficking efforts, to business models, to Christian education, seminaries and journalism, etc.), links to their websites, real contact information, updated volunteer opportunities and missions trainings.
As Tim Keller says “the Kingdom of God advances with friends” and that could not be more true for the CLM. One Saturday a month, we invite professional young adults to learn about how they can be missions-minded in the workplace and with their finances, and we spend our time sharing what God is doing through our ministry friends in various areas of work in as many ways as we can. We host parties, events, and anything we can think of to attract those who would not naturally attend a missions event. We are here for the other 90% and hope that God uses us to make that percentage smaller amongst our generation.
If someone is interested in missions and doesn’t know where to start, they can meet with a missions coach. In just three sessions, we will ask them good questions such as “What are you using your time for? What has God already given you? What makes you angry? What are you passionate about?”, guide them through a Strengths Finder test and other useful tools, check out the database so they can find an opportunity that is a good fit both for them and the organization, and share with them about the importance of spiritual formation, the basis we stand by for survival in the ministry world! If they are looking for a longer commitment, we walk with them as they prepare to meet various mission agencies, consider the options, etc. Ideally, we want everyone to be involved locally, go on a short-term, cross-cultural trip, and consider long-term ministry, even if it means using a BAM or tent making model. We have an alliance with Nehemiah Project and encourage the business minded folks to take the training and offer up their future plans to God on mission. We desire effective one on one conversations and will work tirelessly to help eliminate the obstacles for Latino young adults as they consider offering their lives and telling the Jesus story to those that haven’t heard it yet!
As I think of the missions movement and how God is raising up those in the southern hemisphere to serve in difficult and groundbreaking places, I cannot thank Him enough for His training and preparation in my own personal life, the opportunities and relationships that I graciously inherited and the tools and resources available for my friends and me to tell the stories of those serving and inviting others to be a part of it. What a dream! His love and power will never get old. Let’s continue to tell about it over and over and over again!
By: Cynthia Ramirez, Serving in Mexico
To Learn More
Check out CLM's story and how you can get involved!CLM Website
Originally posted on May 2015 lausanne.org
By: David Ro, Director of the J Christy Wilson Center for World Missions at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and as International Deputy Director for the Lausanne Movement in East Asia.
Several prominent Chinese leaders from the unregistered churches have been convening in Seoul with global and Korean evangelical leaders to discuss China’s future direction in world missions. A Mission China 2030 vision was launched at the Asian Church Leaders’ Forum in 2013.
Last year, China’s leading pastors met in Seoul again to strategize on plans to accomplish the vision to raise up a younger generation to:
- plant thousands of churches in the cities;
- reach China’s 500 unreached minority people groups; and
- send out 20,000 overseas missionaries by 2030.
The church in China has been maturing in its theological and biblical understanding of the role of the church in world missions. Due to the limitations on the official Three-Self churches, unregistered house churches have taken the lead with hundreds of missionaries sent to Central Asia, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and even northern Africa.
A Back to Jerusalem (B2J) movement, originally begun in the 1920s, was rebirthed in the early 2000s by the ‘Heavenly Man’ Brother Yun and Peter Xu calling for a vision to send 100,000 missionaries to the Middle East. Many peasants from rural China responded to the mission call. However, due to the challenges of overseas cross-cultural missions, there was a high drop-out rate among this first wave of missionaries.
Chinese leaders are taking into account lessons from these difficult experiences.
Healthy sending bases and sending structures
Previous attempts relied too heavily on overseas funds, causing dependency issues. Strong healthy churches and sending structures are essential to support and sustain missionaries. The recent Emerging Urban Churches, made up of intellectuals and professionals with global awareness and access to global partnerships, are becoming a strong support base and example for long-term mission sending. Appropriate indigenous mission sending structures and policies are in development to ensure adequate mission training, ministry oversight, financial accountability, and member care.
Unity leads to a healthier church
In the past, local churches kept their distance from each other due to security concerns. However, this unifying global missions vision has trumped previous fears. The Chinese church is healthier due to mutual sharpening. A unifying Mission China 2030 brings together rural and urban, young and older generations, and even different theological perspectives across different regions and cities.
Less triumph, more humility
The hard lessons from the previous B2J have brought about a humbler posture as Chinese church leaders caution against the dangers of triumphant Chinese nationalism. Refraining from using images of China as the last torch-bearer in the Great Commission, they prefer to see China as one among many: mission is from every nation to every nation. Engagement with the global church will be essential for China’s future mission endeavours. While China has something to offer, it comes as a humble newcomer into an existing global mission arena.
History can attest to national mission movements occurring in periods of geo-political and economic growth, as seen in the rise of the United Kingdom and Europe in the 19th century, the United States in the 20th century, and South Korea in the late 20th century.
On December 4th, 2014, the Chinese economy overtook the US economy to become the largest in the world, and almost nobody noticed. China’s rise indirectly influences the global impact of Chinese Christianity.
We should celebrate China’s new status as the largest economy because China’s rise is God’s overall plan for China to bless the world through his church. A peaceful rise will be welcomed by the world as many Chinese believe in the Christian gospel message of hope, love, and peace.
China’s ‘way of the cross’
The gospel from China comes from a church that has gone through suffering. This message of sacrificial living refined by fire reflects the cost of discipleship seen in the early church. Chinese church leaders sense an overall tightening of religious policy on the horizon. Yet Christianity in China grew fastest during some of the harshest times of persecution. Whether the political environment tightens or not, the Chinese church will continue with its call.
China’s radical discipleship to ‘go’
Long-term Western missionary sending seems to be in decline as mission sending increases in the majority world. China has much to teach the West. North American popular speakers David Platt and Francis Chan have both been inspired by the radical discipleship of China’s house church. China’s global missions movement joins Africa and Latin America to remind the global church that the message of radical discipleship must be accompanied with the action to ‘go’ to the ends of the earth.
China’s ‘gospel debt’ repaid
Former Beijing Pastor Daniel Jin estimates that 20,000 foreign missionaries have been sent to China in the last 200 years. The Mission China 2030 challenge is to see at least 20,000 Chinese missionaries overseas by the year 2030: ‘We owe a “gospel debt” to the world. Only when our missions sending surpasses what we have received can China be considered truly a mission-sending country.’
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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