Category: Holistic Mission

A Momma’s Hope and God’s Protection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Adria Hinrichs, Serving in Uganda

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Long-Term Impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imagine This Life…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Jennifer Neptune, Serving in Brazil

Omar’s Story – Refugee from North Sudan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please join me in praying for Omar.

By: Ethan Williams, Serving in France

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Building a Fire in Burma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help From Historical Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Todd Hunnicutt, Missionary to Slovenia

Paving New Roads in Spain

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Interested or know somebody who might be? Inquire here:

*Both Avance España and Avance Mexico partner with Go Corps (

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

Overcoming the Odds: Jeremiah’s Story

Jeremiah was born into a large, poor family. His parents are subsistence farmers. They live in a small, rural village just a few kilometers west of Mount Kilimanjaro in an area that for years was both economically and spiritually depressed. The area was known for outlaws, illegal homemade alcohol and witchcraft. At one point, there was actually a gang of bank robbers living in town.

In 1997, a local pastor, Wariael Mafie, travelled the area frequently and God began to put a burden on his heart for the area’s children. In 2003, the pastor started a small primary school. Despite advice to the contrary, he registered the school as an English medium school, meaning that English would be the language of instruction. Government schools teach in Swahili, the national language of Tanzania.

Jeremiah was a member of the very first class to start attending the school in 2003. In time, he graduated and went on to secondary school. In the meantime, his family was able to slowly pull themselves out of poverty. The scholarship Jeremiah received to attend school meant that, rather than pay school fees, his parents could use their scant financial resources to gradually improve the family’s situation. This is a common dilemma among the poor – how to prioritize and use their money when it isn’t enough to allow them to do both. When he finished secondary school, Jeremiah’s father sold a portion of the family land to help pay Jeremiah’s tuition at a nearby teacher’s college. After finishing the two-year program in primary education, he earned his teaching certificate.

Today Jeremiah is back at his primary school, but now he is a teacher! He has come full circle and is now helping the current students lay the foundation for their lives – just as he himself did a few years ago. “I am so glad to come back” to teach at his former school, Jeremiah said. “There is no other member of my family who has achieved a higher level of education.” Now, he is able to help his family financially as well.

Jeremiah has also given his life to Jesus Christ. After his father passed away while he was in college in 2015, some members in his family wanted to take him to a witch doctor who would tell his future. Instead, “I ran to Jesus because there is eternal life. I have committed my heart to Jesus Christ.” He is now an active member of Pastor Wariael’s church. “I am teaching Sunday school,” he beamed. He has quickly become one of the school’s prayer warriors.

Jeremiah is the embodiment of the vision God gave to Pastor Wariael – twenty years in the making.

By: David and Mary Ann Taylor, Serving in Tanzania

Walk for Freedom – Spain

Avance España (#AvanceESP) has partnered with a local Evangelical collective of ministries in Granada, Spain called Existe Más Mundo. This is an exciting time of collaboration between ministries to reach society with the Good News of the Gospel while serving social needs. The first event of this budding collective has been to organize evangelical slavery abolition group, A21’s, annual Walk for Freedom.  Granada is a new city for Walk for Freedom.

Please pray for Granada’s first march. We have seen churches come together who otherwise have never collaborated before.  Our original goal was to have 100 people sign up between churches, ministry, and those in the community not even related to the church. We are well past that goal.

October 14th, the annual Walk for Freedom. Look on the map for a city near you –

By: Kevin Book-Satterlee, Director of Avance España  
Serving in Spain


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Who’s In Charge Here?

The plan was to travel with a medical team to Senegal and serve 2 villages by providing free doctor’s consultations and free medicine to people who were too remote and too poor to seek medical help in the city.

The morning of the team’s departure from Charlotte, we got word that the government would not allow any medicines to be brought into Senegal.  We all had to quickly re-pack our suitcases and remove all the Tylenol, aspirin, Neosporin, etc. that we had intended to use in the free clinics.

Upon arriving in Senegal, we were told that the government would not allow us to do a medical clinic in the villages.  We had 2 doctors on this team and 3 nurses.  Why would God allow this to happen?  The only thing to do was pray.  As our team sat there in a circle, Dr. Joe was not discouraged.  He said, “Obviously the Lord has other plans for us.”  We prayed for God to show us what He wanted us to do.

After that prayer time, our Senegalese partners came to us saying they had received permission to take our medical team to 2 prisons and serve the prisoners and guards.  So we were able to treat them, pray for them, and share God’s love with them.

We did go to our adopted village, but instead of offering the medical care, we visited every family in each hut and prayed for them individually according to their specific need.  There was not one person who refused prayer.  God’s plan is always the best plan.

By: Cheryl Toombs, Former Missionary to Senegal, recently retired from Home Office Staff.