Category: Holistic Mission

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: http://uwm.org/serve/internships-tracks/

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

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

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 – http://www.a21.org/content/walk-for-freedom/go8h3c.

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.

To Be Seen

There’s a true comfort in being seen. Not just noticed, but actually seen. In the Gospel of Luke, we hear the story of Zacchaeus. He was described as a short man, who, in order to better see Jesus, climbed a tree to get a clear view. Jesus came to the base of the tree, looked directly up at Zacchaeus, called him by name and asked him to come down.

Zacchaeus tried to put himself in a position to see Jesus, but left having been seen by Him.

I think that echoes the character of God so clearly. If we are to see as God does, we have to look past what we can see with our eyes, and embrace what we can see with our heart. A few weeks ago, I had the honor of traveling to Haiti. During our time, we visited different ministry sites in Port au Prince. One of the places we ended up was a construction site, where a local family was helping a contracting crew build their home. As I was looking around the sides of the home, I noticed a little girl of about 6 or 7 curiously looking from over the fence of the house next door. We made eye contact, and we both moved closer to each other. We were separated by the fence still, as there was rebar and other dangerous construction materials everywhere. There was one hole through the bushes and the fence, though, that I could stick my hand through, allowing us to shake hands.

I don’t speak French or Creole. She didn’t speak English. Yet, in that moment, I saw her. Above the noises of concrete mixing, people talking, and all the other construction sounds, I saw her. There were about 20 people on the side of the fence that I was on. On her side, she was alone. And yet, she was seen. I tried to tell her she was beautiful; that she was loved. We only spent about 5 minutes together in total, but those 5 minutes have stuck with me.

I was challenged in that moment to always try to see people the way that Jesus sees them: individually.

By: Renee Gillespie, Social Media & Short-Term Teams Coordinator

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

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

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

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

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

By: Wendy D, Director of Mobilization

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By Word and Deed

Two men confronted with truth, two totally different responses.

The elderly man, “White Hair”, down the street, with a simple greeting and asking what he’s thankful to God for today is set off complaining about the problems with his son, the unfairness of God in making some rich and some  poor,  even about the fact that I am wasting money buying 4 liters of milk for my family.   Contrast this with “Joyful Heart”, who soon after starting work as a clinic guard joined in on a day of prayer for some issues at the clinic and asking God to bless the officials involved in the issue.  After that experience, he wanted to read the Word together. By the time we got to Isaiah 53 on the 7th week, he was ready to ask God for forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ , and was soon declaring he wanted to know the Bible better so he can teach others, and was sharing with his friends immediate family, and coworkers.

There are many reasons for the difference.  Father, of course, was working in “Joyful Heart” preparing him for the Word, but another difference is that “White Hair” heard words without having a chance to see gospel lived out.  “Joyful Heart” saw Biblical core values lived out among coworkers and with patients at the clinic daily.  He saw us loving our enemies and praying for those who persecuted us.  He saw dying to self as believing employees put other’s needs first day by day.  He saw seeking God and trusting Him in the context of a stressful clinic days and business challenges.    He saw integrity – the consistent whole (though by no means perfect) of love, service, action, and speech.  Clinic work, business, village outreaches all give a chance for integral mission.  “Joyful Heart” isn’t alone.  This wholeness has drawn “Beautiful” to read Creation to Christ stories with two women coworkers weekly.  It has made Dr. “Sunshine” eager for every Thursday staff Word and prayer time – always the first to read and answer questions in our study.  Each of these exposures to spoken and written truth are integral extensions of service, respect, encouragement, and compassion that they see lived out through the week.

Throughout the world, some sort of ministry that meets needs – whether business, health, education, or other mercy ministries – is a key aspect to most movements of disciple multiplication by demonstrating love and providing access and integrity when sharing gospel truth.  Besides co-workers mentioned above, we have seen Father open many doors to share with people through the clinic in many directions:  patients whose homes we have visited and who we have prayed with in the clinic, young physicians coming regularly for training which includes both medical training and training in the core values of the clinic, government officials who inspect and oversee, and even other business people.   All these people aren’t just being taught truth, they are being impacted and discipled as they see the consistency between word and action of integral mission.

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18 (ESV)

By: Worker, Serving in Central Asia

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