United World Mission’s core belief is about developing well trained, spiritually-formed leaders and to strengthen and multiply disciple making churches that proclaim and demonstrate the gospel. Here in Brussels, Belgium a church called The Well is doing just that.
One area that they are concentrating on is mentoring and training new leaders in the church while also making disciples who make disciples who make disciples… These leaders go out into the neighborhoods to reach the lost with the gospel; through prayer, Bible studies and by serving those in need.
In my first six months here, I have seen the body of Christ in this church reach out to those that are lost and serve them in multiple ways. Mainly through the vehicle of Serve the City, which was founded by The Well. Via Serve the City, the members of The Well serve breakfast to refugees two mornings a week as they wait in line for the government office to open so they can try to get asylum. They also serve food to the homeless on the streets, and help feed those in shelters along with repairing and assisting the shelters as needed. This involves working with government agencies that have these social programs and also with Roman Catholic charities as well. Due to this unique situation not only do we get to share Jesus with those that are in need, but also with community volunteers we serve alongside who may not be believers. These relationships take time to build and the process is slow, but already I’ve had some personal conversations with people.
As The Well prays and seeks God’s direction in the life of the church, it is building up and changing communities. When there is a need the social agencies, charities, etc call on Serve the City for help. They have a reputation for genuinely caring for people and assisting when and where needed.
For example, Missionaries of Charity needed additional help feeding the homeless on Tuesday afternoons. This is in my neighborhood. As a member of The Well, through the umbrella of Serve the City, I started volunteering there on a weekly basis. Now it has been opened up to others in the community via STC website. I’m coordinating and teaching the volunteers how to serve there. There has been such a positive response that we are looking to help the charity in other ways such as in the mornings preparing the food to be cooked, cleaning their garden, and more. Sister Monia, who is the head nun there, was asked a question one time by someone if I was a Roman Catholic missionary. She said no but we both love Jesus and we work together for Him. It is amazing to see God work through and use us from different denominations to further the kingdom, along with making new friends who still need Christ’s salvation.
Jesus said we are to go to the ends of the Earth proclaiming His name. Here in Brussels where only 1% go to Protestant church and 5% go to Roman Catholic church there is much work to be done. I am grateful, honored, and humbled that God would call me to a place where there are so many lost and yet new relationships being made that will lead to their salvation.
By: Jen Rowland, Serving in Belgium
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See what God is doing through United World Mission’s missionaries and partner, Viento Fresco, in Colombia. Lives are being changed as they experience the surprising love of Jesus through this ministry.
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A monk, a missionary, and a ladyboy get on a train. The ladyboy (born male, living as female) arrives first and is happily seated between two other passengers—pretty ladies should always have seats on trains. The missionary is content standing and frantically preparing for the class he is en route to lead. When the monk arrives, a seated passenger politely moves and offered their seat out of respect for the monk’s honored position. But a monk cannot touch a lady, so the open seat, which happens to be next to the ladyboy, can not be accepted.
Ladies seated everywhere. Finally more shuffling and another passenger gives up their seat, the ladyboy scoots down, and the missionary is called upon to sit between the monk and the ladyboy and act as a buffer—perhaps a cleansing agent of sorts. The whole train breathes a sigh of cultural relief.
It could be the lead-in for a joke. Or it could be everyday life.
When we first arrived here, our family was pleasantly surprised that so much diversity can coexist in such apparent harmony in our city. As our eyes grow more adjusted culturally, however, the glaring difference between tolerance (non-confrontation) and true love (grace-filled acceptance paired with truth-speaking) becomes more stark. People here are given tolerance – they can live their lives in almost any way they please. But their souls are not satisfied. You can see it behind their eyes, in their behavior, in their pushing of the cultural limits—they crave more. They surround themselves by either religious restraint or alternatively by complete freedom to indulge their passions. But one cannot simply restrain the quest for love out of the human soul. And passion is likewise an unfulfilling substitute. True love surprises us by at the same time restraining us and freeing us.
That missionary, the buffer between the monk and the ladyboy, gets to be part of bringing God’s surprising love to some very broken, abused, exploited, and vulnerable individuals who were born as men. Most of them are not currently living as either men or women…they have found a new niche for themselves, a place where they feel they belong, they have chosen a third gender. They change their bodies, wearing with pride what cultural conservatives (who seek to hide their sin) would call shameful. They wear their sin on the outside, as some say. Broken as they are, God is not ashamed to pursue them. They were created in his image. They have rebelled against Grace. They have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…just like every child of God. And God is calling them back to himself. He is making a name for himself among them.
God’s love is indeed surprising. It accepts us just as we are. It doesn’t sugar-coat our position and tell us to stay just like we are. (How many times have we signed a yearbook with the words that seemed loving, “don’t change ever”?) Love calls us upward. It calls us to holiness and then stands by us when we fail to be holy—I will never leave you or forsake you. It calls us to surrender our status symbols—our athletic prowess, business successes, long flowing hair (or other body parts whether natural or surgically enhanced, which will not be named here)—and yet does not demand transformation within a certain timeframe. Love is patient. It is kind. It carries a clear agenda and yet is not offensive. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
Some among the transgender in our city are finding hope in Christ’s love. Our family has the joy of partnering with a non-profit that is geared towards this special demographic—helping them find healing for trauma, further their education, and training them for “normal” jobs in mainstream society. Their journey of transformation is often long and confusing, riddled with questions about what God says about body-changing surgeries…or perhaps undoing those surgeries. Many find hope in Scriptures that refer to eunuchs, who may have been similarly surgically modified: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters” (Isaiah 56:4-5) There is hope for the broken who turn to God.
Our family is a completely imperfect embodiment of Christ’s love. You probably are too. But how is God calling you to surprise by love? And how is God’s love surprising you?
A monk, a missionary, and a ladyboy get on a train…
By: Daniel and Michelle, Serving in Asia
Surprised by Love
How is God calling you to Surprise by Love? One way may be to go and share His love with others in another nation. If you are sensing a call to the nations start here.Talk to a Coach
A WOMAN OF WHOM THE WORLD WAS NOT WORTHY: HELEN ROSEVEARE (1925-2016)
“God never uses a person greatly until He has wounded him deeply.
The privilege He offers you is greater than the price you have to pay.
The privilege is greater than the price.”
Written by Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition on Dec 7. 2016
Helen Roseveare's inspiring story through traumatic suffering while serving in the Congo is a present-day challenge to all of us who follow Christ.Read Now
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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If you would like to join the Congo Initiative community as a financial partner, you may make a gift to UWM’s Congo Initiative project fund.Give Now
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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Learn more by going here: https://professionalsforsenegal.org or click below to talk to a coach.Talk to a Coach
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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In this Central Asian country, the welcoming hearts of the people are as beautiful as the snow frosted, rock faced mountains that cover much of the country, but the road to them accepting the gospel can seem as impassible as the paths through these same mountains.
With persistent demonstration of love for God and love for them, and invitations to read and hear the way of grace from the prophets in the Holy Book, we want to see not only individuals understand Father’s lavish grace in Jesus, but also families and communities accepting His love and gathering to follow Him. Along with simply entering into life with friends and neighbors, the medical work at the clinic allows opportunities to both demonstrate love and sow seeds of truth.
Being the primary referral center in the country for complicated retinal disease opens many doors to sow seeds widely. Patients come from villages across the country. At times we later have the opportunity to go to their homes and villages to visit, sharing stories from the Holy Book and getting to know not only them, but family, friends, and relatives. One of our physicians goes with a team weekly to Gypsy villages and by opening doors through advice on eye and general health problems are able to read stories from the Holy Book. The gypsies are an unreached group known only as beggars and looked down on by the other people groups here. For over a year they have had small groups in two villages reading and discussing God’s grace and love for them and the freedom from shame they can have through Jesus.
Partnering with local churches and leaders in village outreach projects has been another way of reaching out. I still remember one of our first projects – two days visiting a couple villages in the north of the country. In the evening, after giving glasses to over 100 people, four of us were sitting in a room: a woman tormented with fears and nightmares, her relative from the city who was a believer, the pastor we were partnering with, and myself. As I heard this woman’s story and the pastor speak of the love, peace, and hope that Jesus brings, I thought that if 2 days, a 6 hour drive, and 100 pairs of glasses will open doors for even one opportunity to facilitate the gospel spoken into a broken heart that has never heard, it’s a great investment. This woman received God’s love that day and a few months later the pastor returned to the same village with another friend to train teachers in the school and saw several others trust in Jesus.
- The believers like our head nurse, “Kind-Heart”, and administrator, “Star”, being trained in disciple multiplication principles and stepping out in the relationships provided by the clinic to pray, share, and invite patients to take further steps toward hearing the incredible news of God’s grace.
- One of our Muslim medical trainees seeing how different the compassion shown is compared to other places she has worked: listening to patients, taking time to teach them about their disease, and praying with them. After a few weeks she was eagerly asking if we can do studies from the Holy Book on forgiveness, love and other topics she had heard us talk about and was seeing lived out.
- The new guard who joined us in a day of praying for wisdom on resolving an issue with the ministry of health that could close the clinic. He saw the staff praising not complaining, seeking to honor authorities not put them down. Since that day he has been open to beginning reading stories from the Holy Book together regularly and has said he wants to tell them to his wife.
These are just drops compared to the flow of living water we want to see Father pour out into hearts in Central Asia. Pray with us that He will give the love, perseverance, and wisdom to continue living out His character and speaking the light in ways people here can see and understand.
By: Worker in Central Asia
We have a few urgent prayer requests:
1. Pray for the staff of the clinic – that those who know Father would be equipped and eager to share in ways that speak to the hearts of patients and are conducive to disciple multiplication. Pray that those staff who don’t know Father would seek, find, and spread His grace.
2. Three times recently the clinic has been subject to extortion or threatened closure. In this atmosphere of oppression from some officials pray that Father would give wisdom, help us to honor the authorities well, and watch over the continuation of the clinic work.
3. To reach out to physicians more broadly we are focusing our training and seeking to cooperate more with some government hospitals. Pray for this process of planning and building relationships.
“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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