Category: Missionary Service

Meet Sasko – Church Planter in Poland

We met Sasko several years ago while visiting Krakow, Poland.  We challenged him to think about becoming a church planter as he was interested in partnering with us.  We connected Sasko to Redeemer Church’s city to city church planting training and he has been working on his church plant, Christ the Savior.

Sasko has a core team but is always looking for others to join them in reaching Krakow. This city is the cultural capital of Poland with one million people but only 0.1% evangelicals. As you can imagine there are very few believers or churches. If you speak English, are interested in music or the arts they could use your help!

By: Bobby & Teresa LaDage, Serving in Germany

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Woven Through Prayer

Jocabed is from an indigenous people group in Panama and is serving there with United World Mission.   Her story has been translated into English below.

Life is woven through small stories which in turn form larger stories.  In these small and larger stories we can see God working in humanity.  My family is part of the Guna nation, an indigenous people in the country of Panama which has existed for hundreds of years in Abya Yala (the American continent). From the Guna people we learned to live in community and we learned about the grace of the Creator through our relationship with the land and the people.  Additionally, our narratives tell us of the Guna people’s search for a creator.  Each time they celebrate a gathering there’s a time to sing to the Creator and to remind us of the importance of singing to God as an expression of our spirituality.

However, as a Guna community, we have also had our own set of limitations, and one of them was schooling.  There was a time in Guna Yala when only primary schools were available and anyone who wanted to study in a Western-style secondary school had to travel to Panama City.  My great-grandfather took up some acquaintances on their offer to care for my mom so she could live with them and go to school.  During those times when she lived with them and away from her family, she felt very lonely and far from her home.  As she tells it, “My best friend during those times was God.”The years went by and one day she attended a Guna church where she met her husband and had four daughters, of which I am one.  My dad and mom decided to serve God from when they were very young.  As part of this service, they moved to a Guna community in Panama City called Kuna Nega.  At that time, Kuna Nega did not offer basic services such as water, electricity, bathrooms, and transportation.  We were one of only four families there.  They had received a calling from God to serve him among our people.

When my dad and my mom arrived at the Kuna Nega community, they decided to host a Sunday school, so our first task as their daughters was to invite our friends to our parents’ house to study the Bible, pray, and eat together.  The first Sunday meetings were held at our house, for a long time.  As time went on, more and more families started living in the Kuna Nega community, and more and more children and youth started to participate and make a commitment to Jesus.

These young people and others, along with my family, held various activities for the community, such as parties on Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Children’s Day, and other special days.  We helped the community clean up, build houses, and tend gardens.  We also gathered to eat, pray, and study the Bible.  I remember how as children, my sisters and I would pray along with our mom and dad, asking God to help us communicate the Good News, to be faithful to His calling, and for our friends to enjoy a relationship with Jesus.  This is how God eventually answered the prayers of a nine-year-old girl (my mom) when she felt lonely and acknowledged Jesus as her best friend.

This is also how He answered my dad’s prayer.  He came to know Jesus when he was a twenty-one-year-old university student.  His faith has never decreased, but has instead intensified through the years.  Thus, when he married my mom, they started praying and fasting, asking God for direction as a family so they could hear his voice and recognize where the Lord was inviting them to work.  We’ve served in the Kuna Nega community for over thirty years, up until now, in May, when we’ll finish our time as missionaries.  My father, who was a pastor for over thirty years, has decided to hand off leadership to a new generation.

Many of the members of this generation were there at the beginning of our ministry and started participating while they were children.  I recall that many of the leaders currently serving in the church were like my older siblings, because when I was five years old, they were already adolescents.  We shared life and grew up together.  Now, as adults, we can thank God because the tapestry of prayer is woven from these small stories that become larger stories in the grand history that is God’s love for humanity.  On June 23rd, 2018, a ceremony will be held to honor my family as the founders of this church.  Around 500 people now form part of it, of which over 300 are children and youth.  What began with prayer carries on with the prayers of many, the prayers of those who have come to believe that Jesus is the Good News to humanity.  The tapestry of God’s grace is held together by these strands of prayer, as it creates this grand design of love for all peoples, including the people of Kuna Nega.

Prayer: We thank Jesus for his faithfulness, for calling us to His work.  We ask that the Spirit of God will keep granting wisdom, discernment, passion, and love for people.  May the Cristo Daniki church keep being a light within the Kuna Nega context.

By: Jocabed R. Solano Miselis, Missionary in Panama

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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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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

Little Fingers, Big Lessons: Using videos to teach Guatemalan children about the Bible

Dora Cuc Bocel is a Mayan Sunday school teacher, a social worker, and a committed Christian. Below is her testimony of the work God is doing through video stories that are being produced in Guatemala.


“One day I was teaching 10-12 year olds a lesson about the suffering of Ishmael and Hagar.  Most of the children had never heard this story before.  I first showed the video and then asked the children about the conflicts in Abraham’s family.  They answered the questions correctly, but fell silent when I asked if they had ever seen problems like these in families today.  I could tell they were ashamed to tell about the problems they personally face.

The children were asked to choose one of the characters in the story with whom they personally identified and to write down why they identified with this character. I explained that they could keep their answers confidential, sealing their paper in an envelope so no one else would see it.

One of the children came up to me and said he identified with Ishmael because his father and grandparents made him, his mother and brothers leave their home.  One girl said, “I identify with Hagar because my family yells at me and hits me.”  Another boy identified with Isaac because his mom doesn’t let him go out on the street to play with his friends for fear that something bad might happen to him.  Other children with tears in their eyes shared with me about hard situations in their families.

As each child shared I stretched out my arms to hug them and reminded them that they can trust God with their problems because God has promised to care for them (1 Peter 5:7) and, as Psalm 27:10 says, “Even if my father or mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.”

In the final prayer we all held hands, and each child presented their concerns to God.  There were tears, and for the first time I noticed that the children’s prayers were coming from a deep place in their hearts.

After class another teacher that had been watching said to me, “I only knew about one case of suffering and abuse among the children, but through this lesson I realized that many of the children have problems in their homes.  Now I understand why they sometimes misbehave.” 

There are many children who need to interact with lessons like this one, so that they can be encouraged and heard, so that they can pray openly asking God for the comfort they need and stop suffering and crying in silence.” – Dora Cuc Bocel

By: Sarah Johnson, Serving in Guatemala

Watch episode 4, “The Children of Abraham” below:


Dora Cuc Bocel helped write and test Deditos lessons with children in Sololá, Guatemala, the Mayan town where Deditos videos and lessons are produced.

 

Viña Studios in Guatemala is creating an original series of videos using fingers as actors to dramatize Old Testament stories. The name of the series, “Deditos,” means “little fingers” in Spanish.  The accompanying lessons use questions, songs, worksheets and other activities to disciple children and help them make connections between the God of the Bible and their own life stories.  These materials are created in Spanish and are being translated and used in many national and indigenous languages around the world.

You can find additional videos, lesson plans and information about dubbing on the Deditos website.

Fighting for Our Hearts – Czech Republic (Czechia)

At the beginning of this year, in a room of 45 people, someone asked a simple question, “How many of you are here in part, because of the impact Martin (a Czech believer) has had in your life?”

As more than half of the hands raised around the room, Martin’s eyes filled with tears. These were Martin’s friends and people who had seen, first-hand, the transformation in his life. Little did Martin know that entering the battle for his heart a year and a half ago would impact and inspire others to enter the Battle process themselves.  In this tearful moment, in a small retreat center outside of Prague, Martin experienced God’s faithfulness in his own life and in the lives of those around him and began to get a glimpse of the weight of God’s glory.

The group gathered represented Czech nationals and missionaries who embarked on the Battle for Your Heart Process in Czech Republic, bravely desiring to enter into the unique roles they have been created to play in God’s bigger story.

After going through the Battle process together several years ago and experiencing transformation in our own lives, our UWM team in Prague has been curious to see what God would do. We couldn’t have imagined that a year later, our Czech friends would be asking us to provide this opportunity for them and already inviting their friends to participate!

Last September, the first group of 35 Czech nationals began this process, learning more deeply of God’s heart for them and their unique identity in Christ. As I interacted with the university-aged girls around my table throughout the weekend, I began to sense a freedom and lightness about them that hadn’t been there on the first day of the retreat as the reality of God’s love and pleasure over them began to sink more deeply into their hearts.

One of the girls shared the impact that the initial weekend had on her:

“These three months were really special to me. I had never thought how many things can change in something like 90 days before this event. Things and relationships in my life started to change very slowly as I started to experience God’s love and acceptance in a very marvelous and tremendous way. It was like waking up my heart to feel again. To be more aware of my feelings and desires and for the very first time not to be ashamed of them.

 And I didn’t force the things in my life to change, they just started to change! And it was not about me. My team and God are at the center of it. Such a blessing to get to know God’s heart for me better and to find out that I can reflect God’s heart to others. Such a relief that I can be who I am and I don’t have to be someone else. It has solved so many problems in my life and I’m slowly starting to build my life on the rock.

I’m so thankful for having the opportunity to be part of something so powerful and meaningful. And I’m so excited to spread this among the people in my domain.”

In January, many of these people plus a few more took the next steps of engaging their hearts and stories more deeply, thanks largely to the impact that Martin has had in their lives.

As a team, we rejoice to see the good work that God is doing among His people in Czech Republic and it’s with great eagerness that we anticipate what He will do in this country as more of His people begin to engage their unique roles wholeheartedly!

By: Kristin, Serving in Czech Republic (Czechia)

Is This Getting Through to Anyone?

Dots of light from the tin roof overhead speckle our study area as I introduce potential missionary candidates to new ideas in missiology, chronological Bible teaching, and Islamics. We meet in a rural church on the edge of Bamako, with a dirt floor, and electricity only when the generator is running (i.e., rarely!). My students have come from Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, and Mali to join Ebenezer International, a home-grown Malian mission agency that we work with dedicated to reaching the lost of Mali in culturally appropriate ways through tent-maker missionaries.

These candidates have a shared enthusiasm for the Gospel and usually a good knowledge of God’s Word, but are “first-graders” when it comes to modern approaches to reaching the Lost. Don’t you just pitch a tent and put out a call for hundreds to come hear a message, followed by an invitation? This is rarely effective among Muslims, and so they learn about relationship-based approaches, story-telling, and what Muslims actually believe. They are also introduced to the concept of Unreached People Groups (UPGs) who, despite sometimes living near Christians, are virtually untouched by the Gospel. Who knows if one of these students will be the next missionary to the Fulani, the Moors, or the Tuareg?

I spend a month with a group like this once or twice a year. I know that I may not see the results of my teaching any time soon, since this is the very first step in their missionary training and career. But occasionally, I get some feedback sooner than that…

Daniel is a 20-year old high school student (that’s a normal age for high school here) from Guinea. He came to spend the summer with a relative working at this local mission agency, and it was decided that it would be a good use of his time to spend it in my classes. Since most of the other students are university graduates with some working experience, I didn’t have great expectations.

Evidently, my course had quite an impact on Daniel, and here is what he wrote to me a month or two after returning home to school: “The training on the Christian mission that you taught us helps me a lot. I have a teacher here who is pure Muslim, so one day he called on me, speaking to me about Islam in an effort to convert me.  Because of your course, I understood that they have false assumptions on the Bible. So with the help of God He could not convert me. This training Is really important for every Christian.”

When I wonder if anyone is really “getting” what I teach, I remember Daniel, and his newfound confidence to defend his faith before his professor.

By: Jim & Jennifer B, Serving in Mali

Seeing Jesus Through Visions and Dreams!

A few years ago, we brought a team of pastors and ministry leaders from Mexico to North Africa.  It was an eye-opening and paradigm-shifting experience being immersed in a Muslim country where the call to prayer was heard five times a day, some women were completely covered from head to foot while others walked around in Western clothing, and the mosques were filled inside and out with lines of men kneeling for prayer.  We had gone to serve and support our Mexican friends serving long-term in this country, and they had a business where they were able to live out the values of the Kingdom with their employees.

At their business, we met a young man who shared his story with us (in Arabic translated to Spanish with the help of our Mexican friends).  As a child, “Mohammad” (*name changed for security reasons) had received a book about Isa (Jesus) from a friend, which he read but quickly discarded because it spoke of Jesus as the Son of Allah, more than just a prophet, and Muslims believe that Jesus was simply a prophet like many others.  Mohammed told us, “In my country, you are born Muslim and to convert to some other religion means rejection, imprisonment and possibly death to the ‘unfaithful’ (translation).”  Years later, Mohammad had an eye-opening experience that changed his life completely!

One night when he was sleeping, a man dressed all in white appeared to him in a vision or dream and said, “I am the way, the truth and the life…Follow me!”  Mohammad was completely shaken and jumped out of bed, realizing that the man who had appeared to him was the very Isa he had once read about!  He immediately decided to learn more about this man, but when he told his family about his experience and his decision, they immediately rejected him and kicked him out of their home, in fear of what the authorities might say or do if they found out.  Overnight, Mohammad became homeless, without family, and at the risk of what could happen to him in his country.  Thankfully, his grandmother eventually took him in, and he began to seek more of Isa on his own.

Somehow by God’s grace, he encountered our Mexican friends who hired him at their local business and began sharing more about Isa with him, teaching him from the Book and helping him understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  Mohammad eventually accepted Isa into his heart and became one of his disciples.  He enrolled in college, got involved in a covert campus ministry at his university, and seeks to share Isa with his Muslim friends.  He knows the risks of sharing about Isa in his country, and our Mexican friends continued to meet with him until they were recently discovered and were forced to leave this country after years of working at their business and making disciples for Jesus.  The cost of following Jesus is very high in this country, but many who have decided to follow him as Savior and Lord have seen and experienced him in a way that is undeniable.

Pray for the believers in North Africa who are seeking to follow Isa in a religiously restrictive environment.  Pray that God would fill them with faith, power, courage and wisdom to be his disciples, and pray for many more sightings of Jesus through visions and dreams!

By: Worker, in Undisclosed Area

Following Christ in France

I met Josias in 2005 in France at camp where I was the counselor for his 10 year old brother.  When we all had free time Josias became my shadow, making me sing gospel or R&B songs.  He would tell me about his life in the suburbs of Paris with his friends, most of whom were troublemakers.

On the final night of camp our 15 year old roommate, David, looked shaken up while he was packing.  He explained that he was moved by the camp speaker and knew it was true that only Jesus could save him.  But he felt too unworthy.  So we unpacked grace and when I asked if there was anything preventing him from repenting and receiving that grace, he said there was no obstacle and we prayed right there!  Of course my thoughts then turned to Josias, but my 17 year old shadow was almost offensively uninterested (his words now).

As camp came to a close and it was time to say goodbye, Josias and I both had a hard time managing our sadness. We both knew it would be hard to continue our friendship. Who knew when I’d be back?  Since he knew it meant so much to me, he grudgingly took the Bible I offered as a parting gift, saying only, “Maybe I’ll get some use out of it one day.”

That sentence became my hope and prayer for him and the 60 million French people who are far from God.  That hope led me to join UWM in 2007 with the intention of going to France.  Josias and I spoke a few times and met in 2010, but he was way too busy enjoying life to settle down or stay in touch.  I moved to France in 2012  to work with Brie Church in the Paris region where we immediately reconnected.  By now Josias had married a woman from Congo who already had a daughter, and with whom he had two more daughters.

That Bible, and the testimony of my affection for him, led Josias to start digging into his faith and to volunteer in the same camp.  He began to go to church when he married but remained on the fence about committing his life to Jesus.  Since then I walked with him through a bitter divorce and the loneliness afterwards.  He was angry at God because his ex-wife was “supposedly” a believer.  How could she leave?  He walked with me through heart-break.  We vacationed with his dad, siblings and kids.  He joined my small group.  But he was always on the fence because of unresolved sin.

Until a few days ago…

I called to wish him Happy Birthday and as we were saying goodbye, the rascal said…”By the way, if you’re back in time, I will be baptized on December 16th”.

29 year-old father of 3, rugby player, counselor in a state institution for teens with special needs, and now, follower of Christ.


By: Ricardo Walker, Serving in France

White As Snow


Like most of our trips, this one was full of driving. We drove from village to village, singing and lifting up the people who live in the houses that we passed by. The weather here is turning from winter to spring, so the hills are turning more green and the rivers are flowing steadily. After driving a while, we came to a trailhead that leads to the top of a point that gives a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. It is one of the most glorious spots I have ever stood. Whenever I get a chance to stand up there, it feels like I have stepped right into a picture that the Creator is still painting and shaping. 

Sitting there at the top of the mountain, we played a couple songs and sang them over the valley below. My teammates and I froze as the last words of the last song played: “though our sins are scarlet, you’ve made us white as snow.” At the sound of these words, we began to weep over the valley.

Still wondering what the significance is? Allow me to unpack this a bit. As those last words played, snow began to fall. Even greater, the people who live in this valley are influenced and led by religious leaders who wear red robes. White snow was falling on the people who are clothed in scarlet. The Creator is showering love on the people, even before they have heard His name.

The story isn’t over. The next morning, we went up to a temple, where we were able to talk with some of the leaders there. As one of our teammates talked to the head leader dressed in scarlet, snow began to fall. It was a perfectly clear, blue sky morning, and snow began to fall in that place. Later that day, we visited another temple and snow fell again. As we finished our path along the villages, snow fell yet again, through the sunshine.

Where we saw people still clothed in scarlet, Father sees a people bathed in white snow. He wants to take away their scarlet sin and replace it with a pure, clean robe of His design. For Father so loved the world, He is continually showering love on His people like snow. My team and I are here to play some small part in telling His children that they are made white as snow, and they have no need to fear, because there hasn’t been a day that He hasn’t loved them.

By: Kingdom Worker, Serving in Asia

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