Category: Missionary Service

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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Identity of Grace and Bravery

I was an anxious and shy child that refused to do anything as daring as answering the telephone (what if it was a stranger?!), much less ride a roller coaster. I hid behind my mom and never wanted to leave the house,  but I so longed to be like the heroes in the books I read. I yearned  for daring adventure and to be a strong woman that would fight for what she believed in. Little did I know, God was writing me into His own story that would take me to the corners of the earth and on an adventure beyond my wildest dreams.

That experience started with a phone call from United World Mission- one that invited me into a world beyond my imagination. I was soon paired with an apprenticeship program taking me to Prague, Czech Republic. I stepped on a plane with much trepidation to join a  team that desired to bring the Gospel to an overwhelmingly atheist country (very different from my Bible-belt upbringing!). I was discipled and trained under a leadership that desired to see the church grow from a harvest of new believers. As I worked as an English teacher to form relationships, I began to learn the challenges of being a missionary, and where God wanted to meet those needs with His presence.

After almost two-years, I was offered the opportunity to finish my first missionary term in Cape Town, South Africa. As I stepped on the plane that would take me first to Dubai and then to Cape Town, I understood the feeling Samwise Gamgee said in the Lord of the Rings, “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.” Again, God was inviting me again into a bigger story, one where I would learn what it means to be called  brave and a daughter of Christ, but that plane ride was scary!

I became an intern at East Mountain in South Africa through UWM. I lived and worked with South Africans that taught me so much, including inappropriate words in Afrikaans under the guise of polite phrases. As I came face to face with poverty and oppression that marks the beautiful landscape of South Africa, God began to show me what it looks like to believe that He is good in the midst of suffering.  Ministry was vastly different here than in Prague, but I was using the lessons that I had learned about His invitation and presence in my ministry. I worked  for a school that educated children from hard places. I began to see how my story, that had intersected the gospel, could be used to bring hope and healing to kids who have experienced so much trauma.

After completing a year in South Africa, UWM offered me the opportunity to continue serving as a long term missionary in South Africa. When I started this journey I thought I was defined by anxiety and fear, but though the discipleship of UWM and God’s faithfulness, I am learning to live out of an identity of grace and bravery.  Moving across continents, speaking new languages, sharing the love God has given me to walk in was more than I ever dreamed of when reading those books so long ago. I am currently support raising to return to South Africa!

By: Autumn Pendergras, Serving in South Africa

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Understanding Hinduism – A Misunderstood Worldview Part 2

As mentioned in Part 1 of this blog, Hinduism is really more accurately described as Hinduisms. It is a collection of many religions, schools of thoughts/philosophies and belief systems that may even seem contradictory but are somehow held together as a mysterious whole.

One way to think about Hinduism is “diversity, diversity, diversity.” How can 1 billion people with multiple languages, traditions and no central doctrine possibly be defined under one religious label?

 1) Who is a Hindu and why do they believe in so many gods?
Most Hindus agree or believe that there is one divine consciousness or God. However, that does not mean that they believe in that one entity or reality in the same way Abrahamic religions (such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam) do. Hinduism accepts multiple paths to truth or divinity. Some Hindus do not accept the finality of any incarnation(s) of God and believe that at different times/eras of the Universe, God can sends different incarnations to bring justice and peace in the world. Whereas, there are other Hindu groups that claim that the incarnated deity (such as Krishna, Ram or Shiv) they have come to believe is undoubtedly the final incarnation of God. Others only tend to devote their lives in the worship of goddess, which falls under the Shakti tradition.

Theism (belief in god or gods in a general sense) is part of the Hindu spectrum of belief, but not an exclusive monotheism. It exists along with many other approaches that are personal and impersonal, form-based or formless, extending to art, philosophy and science. Hinduism has elements of what a western theological framework would call monism, henotheism, polytheism, pantheism and panentheism. It is held together as part of many sided, multi-leveled approach to the sacred. Throughout the centuries many have tried to make one of the above approaches THE approach but only succeeded to do so in certain locations and among specific people-groups.

Consequently, a Hindu could be a person who may believe any number of things or the absence thereof, and still identify as a Hindu, as long as he/she is born in a Hindu family and has its heritage and cultural traditions.

Sounds confusing? It is. Yet, that is the diversity of Hinduism.

2) What books do Hindus hold sacred?
There are literally dozens upon dozens of religious books from various eras and sources that constitute Hindu thought, practices and rituals. Most Hindus do not read these books as part of their daily devotions, as is encouraged by Abrahamic religions like Islam, Christianity and Judaism. For many Hindus, it is more important to embrace the traditions that are passed down in one’s family than hold true to any given text.

But we will talk about some of the influential ones.

The Vedas (completed in 1200 BC) are considered by many to be the central body of books covering rituals, hymns and philosophies mainly designed for priests. However, many Hindu traditions do not give prominence to this claim. The Vedas have been crucial in influencing culture through the highest caste (Brahmins) who have been the keepers of religious ritualism and ceremonial sanctity for the past several thousand years. However, many resent the Brahminical influence and cast off the influence of the Vedas in their lives.

Another set of writings, the Upanishads, are commentaries on the Vedas but focus more on existential philosophy.

The Bhagavad Gita has become one of the more popular books of Hinduism and has become popular in the West in recent decades because of the Hare Krishna movement. It is written in a conversational style between Krishna and his disciple Arjun, with simple instructions on life, duty and morality. This makes it an easy book to grasp for many readers, hence it has become one of the most well known Hindu texts. Most people know the story of Krishna as a larger part of the epic the “Mahabharat.”

There are many more important books which shape the Hindu worldview, but these are a few that we wanted to highlight.

 3) What is the caste system? Does it still exist?
Textbooks categorize Hindu caste system in four different Varnas (class/type), which are Brahmins (Priest), Kshatriyas (Warrior), Vaishyas (Traders) Shudras (Laborers). Fifth Varna is sometimes added as Dalits or outcastes or untouchables (latrine cleaners, street sweepers, etc)

However, no one functions in the society with the above classifications. For all practical, government and legal purposes there are thousands of castes (Jatis) and subcastes that people identify themselves under that are in turn grouped into 3-4 separate umbrellas. Forward caste (FC), Other Backward Caste (OBC) and Scheduled Caste/Schedules Tribe (SC/ST). OBCs comprise the largest caste cluster of India.

Having a caste associated with a person/family is not illegal, but discrimination based on caste is. That being said, the discrimination is still rampant, including violence against Dalit women in rural areas. There is a form of affirmative action, where people from so called untouchable castes are given reservations or quotas in schools and for government jobs. Caste politics are quite common in elections and in how campaigns are organized. Marriage is usually only arranged or accepted within one’s caste but the inter-caste marriages are on the rise in India, especially in more urban areas.

Many people from the Dalit/untouchables/outcaste castes have turned towards Buddhism, Christianity and other religions to be “liberated” from their plight. This trend has affected the mindset of what Christianity means in India, as just a way to reorganize and escape the caste system rather than becoming a true disciple of Jesus.

By: Worker, Serving in Asia
We know we haven’t even begun to uncover the vastness of Hinduism as lengthy discourse on each of the above topics is called for if one wants to provide an exhaustive treatment on these topics. We acknowledge our limitations here. 

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A Beacon in the Valley

This particular Thursday night last May had been unlike any other night of evangelism our ministry team had led. Our “Coffee With God” outreach time of discussing a short Bible study in a one-on-one setting while sharing coffee together had gotten a little out of control. Normally we had a slow, but steady flow of people that allowed us to spend time with most of our participants and engage in the Bible study and any other discussions they might be interested in starting.

This Thursday night we experienced a tsunami-like flood of people who quickly and almost simultaneously surrounded our tiny table hoping to get a small cup of Nescafé Ricoffy (a hot drink blend of coffee and chicory that is popular in the South African coloured* community) mixed together with at least three heaping scoops of sugar. Additionally, unlike most of our previous weekly outings, the majority of the people that came that evening seemed to be only interested in the coffee portion of our coffee with God time, quickly exiting the area with their sugary, caffeinated drink in hand.

The mess of an evening was completed by the fact that two people who were in line for (what was supposed to be) a Bible study and coffee got into a fight leading to one of the men pulling a knife on the other. During this time, Denver, one of our ministry team members, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was accidentally slapped in the face knocking his glasses to the ground, but yet unfazed – Denver is a fit guy and a champ after all. As things seemed to heat up I began walking my 6’5” 220 pound frame over to the two men with the goal of helping them peacefully resolve their issue. Initially I hoped my size and peaceful intervention might dissuade them from getting further into their argument. Really, though, I prayed as I walked because I was a bit unsure of how to handle the situation – I am of course a lover not a fighter. Fortunately, before I could even get halfway to them the two men ended their argument in a stalemate with each walking in the opposite direction down the road. This was the disaster that was our evangelism evening, or so we had thought.

That same evening we happened to have a professional photographer join us. He was taking pictures for an organization who partnered with Trinity Church. The photographer happened to be away taking neighborhood photos when the initial flood of people arrived and the disagreement arose, but was present during most of the remaining part of the activities.

About a month later we received some of the photos he took. The scene that he captured shed a different light on what had happened that night. Although many people rejected the “seeds” we had offered, for many others what had happened was engagement. A momentary, but meaningful engagement with their lives and with the Gospel.

Amidst the fray – and there was a whole lot of “fray-ing” going on – something special was going on as a number of individuals desired for more. They spent time talking with Nimo, Denver, Kaycee, Basil, Yolanda, and me. They asked questions, they discussed that night’s portion of Mark’s gospel we were offering, they interacted with the night’s real purpose behind the activity. They were not coerced or forced into talking, but craved something more than an overly sweet cup of coffee could provide. A number of them have continued to search and have had later conversations with some having joined us in our Sunday morning services.

Trinity Church Grades 5-6 Bible Study

These are the true dynamics of ministry at Trinity Church, a small congregation sitting in the heart of a neighborhood called Beacon Valley, an area with high poverty and even higher gang activity and drug use. A world-surprising church that itself sits within the valley all the while standing tall as a beacon of Gospel-sharing light amidst the numerous offerings of prosperity gospels and new apostle churches.

A church where even in a small congregation, the diversity spreads large with members being made up of coloured, Xhosa, British-descent, and Afrikaner South Africans; Zimbabweans, Dutch; Australians; and Americans. This diversity bringing in many different cultural backgrounds, outlooks, and histories yet everyone coming together in unity as a family of Christ. A church that seeks justice amidst the poverty where some members offer a weekly meal for the children whose parents have little. A church that opened a much-needed student- sponsored primary school (elementary school in the U.S.) in order to provide a quality education for many of the children in the neighborhood. A church that takes time to share the freeing Good News of Jesus with the alcoholic couple (we met one evening), the many drug users addicted to tik (meth in the U.S.), the gang members, and even the gang leader who happened to stop by to grab a cup of coffee and then stay for a bit to hear the Bible study we were offering. In contrast to its size, the Trinity stands large in faith and its ability to live out the great commission.

This is the church we have had the privilege of partnering with. The church, much like the aforementioned Thursday night, continues to quietly impact many people’s lives while mostly getting overlooked amidst the noise of the surrounding neighborhood and its reputation. A church that lacks ample financial resources and staff and (because of its poverty) is oftentimes looked down upon by wealthier churches in its congregation. A church that nonetheless continues to faithfully follow the Father in offering justice, mercy, and His Good News. A church that received our partnership and assistance all the while equally offering the strongest of witnesses and faith-building moments to us. May the Lord continue to use Trinity to surprise the world in all that it does and may we continue to see more of these small snapshot-like moments as it does so.

* The term “coloured” is an official designation for one of the five racial categories in South Africa and does not carry with it the racially derogatory association that it does in the United States.

By: Leo Wurschmidt, Serving in Africa

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More Than I Expected or Imagined: Serving Thai Believer’s Vision


Protestant missionaries have been working in Thailand for almost 188 years, and yet this nation, known as the most Buddhist country in the world, still has less than 1% evangelical Christian.  The remaining Thai population is made up of 93% Buddhists and about 6% Muslim.  So why has there been such slow progress in seeing Thais receive the Gospel?  I began to think that maybe we missionaries have not been as helpful as we thought we were.  After studying how Christian movements in the past have accelerated, I was convinced that reaching the city and seeing churches established was the most effective way to reach a nation.

After serving in a campus ministry organization in Thailand for 14 years, I changed mission organizations in 2005 and joined UWM.  During this transition time, I was encouraged by my director to do an informal survey to see what Thai leaders thought about what kind of work missionaries should be doing in Thailand.  After so little progress, I thought this would be helpful to see what Thai’s thought about the how ministry was being done and the missionaries’ role.  I talked with several leaders, but one Thai leader, who was the president of a Thai seminary, told me something that changed the trajectory of how I approach doing ministry.  He said, “in the past missionaries would come to me and ask, ‘Do you have any seminary students you could send me to help me start my church, or my denomination or ministry organization?’  So, we would send Thais to the help the missionary accomplish their vision.”  He said, “this was okay in the past, but now we have Thai leaders who have a vision and are equipped to start churches and ministries on their own. Now, we need the missionaries to come alongside us Thais, to help us accomplish the vision God has given us for our nation.”

At that point, the organization that I was working with had started two very weak churches, one in Bangkok and the other in the Northeast of Thailand. Not only was it propped up financially by us missionaries, there were too many missionaries in both churches and this inhibited the Thais ability to step up and lead.  So when this Thai leader said this, it made sense, and I’ve never gone back to trying to get Thais to help me accomplish my vision.  It’s their nation, and they know their people better than me. Therefore, they are more likely to see Thai people come to Christ.  At that point the Thai leader invited me into what was called, the Thailand National Plan.  This was a plan to see churches started all over the nation.

Over the past 11 years, I’ve been able to come alongside Thai leaders on the local, regional and national level to help them accomplish their vision to reach their nation.  This has been much more fruitful and rewarding in seeing churches started.  Locally, I am partnering with Thai business leaders to establish a church, and just this month we moved into a new facility that was not your traditional way of building a facility.  The business leaders partnered with another businessman who has soccer sport complexes throughout the city, so when he was planning to start a new business in our area of the city, we invested in the business and built our facility within the sport complex.  A creative and more economical way of getting a more permanent facility.   The thing about joining with a national to help them accomplish their vision of planting a church is that, if I have to leave at anytime, the ministry will continue because it was the Thais vision from the beginning.  I see missionaries struggling to turn over the churches they’ve planned or the ministries they have started, and many times the ministry dies because it was never owned by the Thais.

Regionally, our team has come alongside churches and organizations to provide discipleship and leadership training.  Offering this kind of training to many churches has been exciting and the local pastors welcome and appreciate the opportunity to partner with us.  On the national level, as God opened the door for me to serve through the Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand and on a national planning committee thinking and planning for strategic initiatives on the national level.   Over the past 11 years, I have been able to serve denominational leaders and to bring resources, training and ideas to the table help enhance and expand the vision and plans of national leaders working together to reach the entire nation.

One recent example of working with Thai church planters is that I have been able to join with a church planter training team who trained over 250 pastors and leaders in four regions throughout the nations.  These pastors set a goal to start 150 new churches over the following year.  Last year when we followed up on these pastors 134 churches had been started.  Through helping the Thais accomplish their vision God has done more than I expected or imagined.

By: Gregg Nicholson, Serving in Thailand

His plans vs HIS Plans

Natán grew up in a home that was filled with unhappy moments.  Before he entered his teens he knew what his plans were.  As soon as possible he would leave home, join the Sendero Luminoso (the terrorist group), return to his village and kill those who were causing great problems in his family.  A young 12 year old boy had his plan, but God also had HIS plan.

Natán ran away from home to the big city of Arequipa.  He stayed with extended family who invited him to a youth group at a local church where his uncle was the pastor. That night Natán recognized God had a different plan for his life.

Even though he had grown up in church, Natán realized he needed to repent of his sins, receive God´s grace and forgiveness and enter into a relationship with Christ.  God´s plan began unfolding from that time onward.

A short time later he began attending a rural Bible Institute in Chiguata, Arequipa, Peru.  He was being discipled, learning about ministry and discerning God´s plan for his life.

After graduating from the Bible school God directed Natán to attend the biblical seminary in Lima to prepare to be a pastor. While studying there he began a relationship with one of the girls from Chiguata, Patricia, who would later become his wife.  

In 2016 Natán accepted a position as a pastor of a church in Lima, Peru.  It was  his first time to be the main pastor of an entire church.  He was asking God for help, direction and maybe someone who could walk alongside him during this time.  

During a visit to the seminary his path crossed with one of his former teachers at the Bible Institute in Chiguata.  It was a joyful reunion for both Natán and me, Vikki!

An even greater joy was shared as Natán met my husband Nelson and they began a friendship.  Soon after we moved to Lima, Natán asked Nelson to work alongside him; to be his mentor and coach as he began discovering what it means to be a pastor of a church.

Natán thought he knew his plans for the future.  God stepped in and reshaped those plans.

We thought we knew our plans for our future in Arequipa. God stepped in and reshaped those plans.

We are so thankful for His plans.  

By: Vikki Maya, Serving in Peru

Prayer

Pray for Natán and Patti and for us as we continue to seek God´s plan for our lives. Continue to lift up the country of Peru and for the many others who need HIS story lived out in their lives.

Prayer for Peru

Church in Belgium: Forming Faith, Community and Mission

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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Practical Training in French for West Africa


In October 2012 while on a sabbatical in France my husband, José, and I attended a Strengthen Your Interpersonal Skills (SYIS) workshop. At that time we were taking a Counseling class at Institut Biblique de Nogent to be better equipped to meet the great need for Practical Counseling amongst national leaders in French speaking West Africa. We were excited to be part of this workshop that we had heard so much about as being a wonderful tool to help with topics such as managing stress, maintaining margins,  listening well, help others solve their problems, etc….

At the end of that workshop we went to the Facilitators and said, “We want this workshop to be held in Senegal, our national leaders are in need of this type of training”. We were challenged to take the Facilitators Training and then introduce the program in our context of ministry.

God is so gracious to us! 3 years later, guess what!?! A training for SYIS Facilitators was organized for the first time in French in Senegal!!! Wow! God really wanted us to see our dream come true. Shortly after taking that training we discovered that a friend of ours, who is the leader of New Tribes Mission (Integral Mission) in Senegal was an experienced English Facilitator for SYIS. We invited him to join us and organize the Workshop in French. He accepted the challenge to do it in French with us. After some months of preparation our dream came true in Dakar this past February.

The need is so great that we ended up having a waiting list since our target number of 24 leaders was quickly reached.

Here are a few of the testimonies:

“I have been to many seminars but it is the first time to be part of one that is so dynamic and practical.” . I was very touched by the role plays.” (National Pastor from Dakar)

“My wife and I were transformed by the workshop. In our family now, our communication has improved tremendously, so whenever we start with our old way of communicating, we stop and either with my spouse or with the children we decide to start over the proper way just like we learned during the workshop.” (African missionaries)

“When can we get a training for Facilitators, we need to teach this to our leaders.” (World Vision Leader)

“I didn’t want to come to this workshop and I was thinking another seminar again!, but my supervisor wanted me to,so I came, But I can tell you, I am so glad I did, I learn so many new things that was needed in my life and in my leadership. I am grateful!” (National Pastor fromThies)

By: France-Lise Oliveria, Serving in Senegal
France-Lise and José: Regional Leaders for West Africa 

The Unknown World of Other Religions

Colombia is an overwhelmingly Catholic country, and the Colombian evangelical church is overwhelmingly ex-Catholic. According to the Pew Research Center’s report “Religion in Latin America,” 74% of Colombian Protestants were raised Catholic, the highest of any country in the region.

So, it’s unsurprising that the strategies that most churches use to reach their communities are primarily geared toward two groups with different approaches to faith: religious Catholics and nominal Catholics. Ask a typical Colombian evangelical how to have a productive conversation with an atheist, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Jehovah’s Witness, or a Mormon, and you’re likely to get blank stares.


Two and a half years ago I was teaching the class “Religious Systems” for the first time at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia, a class that seeks to equip students to understand other religions, sects, and worldviews on their own terms and then to construct theological and pastoral responses from an evangelical perspective. I told students we would make two field trips as a class to learn about other faiths. The first was to a Tibetan Buddhist center here in Medellín.

I recall my students’ palpable shock as the Buddhist sharing with us talked about reincarnation as if it were the most logical thing in the world—and this from a real Colombian, not a person from Asia! After restlessly shifting around for nearly two hours on cushions they normally used for meditation, we wrapped up our time of Q&A with a number of good questions from students, mixed in with the occasional insensitive one that made me embarrassed to be the professor. But the trip worked. Though frightened at first by the visit, students left feeling confronted over their need to learn how to share their faith with people who thought so differently, and encouraged that it was truly possible to build relationships with them.

This semester I have taught the course again, both residentially and online. A few weeks ago, I got an urgent email from my student Roman asking for prayer. “After starting the readings on Mormonism, I went online to request a free copy of the Book of Mormon, but it came with two missionaries included!” Since that first encounter, Roman has continued talking with the Mormon missionaries, seeking to share biblical truth with them and apply what he learned about Mormonism in the online course. He said that one of the missionaries seems more open and seeing the force of what he is sharing, while the other is more closed. Roman told me, “I’m going to keep talking with them until they either stop coming or they convert and accept the gospel.”

Another encouraging moment came a couple of weeks ago, when, after requiring students to have a 30-minute conversation with an atheist, agnostic, or other person who rejects traditional religion, a pastor in my online class shared about a productive conversation that he had with the husband of a woman who had recently begun attending his church. The man is an atheist with an extremely negative view of evangelicals, yet he saw in my student a model of careful thought and humble conviction that have caused him to be more open to establishing relationships with the church and perhaps one day considering the Christian faith.

While I haven’t seen anyone accept the gospel as a direct result of this course, I have been encouraged to see students taking steps of faith to engage with the unknown, and often scary, world of other religions. What they have discovered is that people of other faiths are just as human as us, just as relatable, and just as broken and in need of the gospel. And as Latin America becomes more and more secularized and diverse, I see a glimmer of hope that the evangelical church is waking up to its need for a better defense of the faith—one that doesn’t just work with the nominal Catholic who in theory believes the Bible but doesn’t really understand what it says—but one that responds to the atheists and followers of other religions who reject the Bible and whose worldviews often clash with a Christian view of reality at the deepest levels.

By: Kevin Johnson, Serving in Colombia

Commitment to Discipleship


I’ve been a part of Kay and Ken’s life for many years now. They were both single when I met them and I was just learning their heart language. Jane became my tutor. In my tutoring classes we talked about all aspects of life. Literally sharing life together as I’m now considered a family member after all these years.

Kay and Ken married a few years ago and now have a baby. They have been blessed to have multiple older people in their lives to mentor and disciple them. They were sent out last year to start a new Sunday group.

Kay has been a part of 2 other discipleship classes, both just 6 weeks long then the leader went on to other people. She said she felt like a “project” with some foreigners and even their own native leaders.

One of the things I do is discipleship.  My approach is to spend 2 years with people. Kay and Ken are both great learners. They are currently using the same discipleship materials with their leadership team that I have used. Each person in their leadership team is now mentoring and discipling others in their Sunday group. The discipleship, mentoring, and coaching that I have done with this couple is now being replicated throughout their Sunday group. Great fruit is being produced from this couple. 

– Names have been changed for safety

By: Worker Serving in Asia

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