Category: News

Enjoying the Sunrise in Ethiopia

Yoseph Haddis teaches and leads ministry at his local church and has recently expanded his ministry to include mentoring at Youth for Christ -Ethiopia, a local youth organization.

Yoseph’s work is critical to his community. Due to extreme poverty and hunger, many youth are out of school, forced into child marriage, child labor, and human trafficking. Each week Yoseph draws upon his training from our partner school, Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology, to coach small group leaders and gives them tools to serve their communities and be prepared to handle life challenges. He also organizes teams that address spiritual needs of the people they serve. “My ministry is about helping others find hope in Jesus Christ and to passionately pursue the Word of God,” he said.

Although Yoseph’s community faces major challenges with marriage, parenting, and unemployment, his work has begun to have a big impact on the church. First, a new ministry was created which focused on serving impoverished and at-risk teenagers. Then a children’s ministry was restructured to utilize teenage volunteers who are new to the faith, as mentors for youth. The ministry now serves six times the number of children, most of whom come from the homes of non-believers. Yoseph has also developed Bible study materials that are impacting how others are learning about God’s love for them and living in a way that honors Him.

The scholarship assistance Yoseph received from Overseas Council (a ministry of United World Mission) has allowed him more time to study and learn the Bible, and has enabled him to think strategically about the most effective ways to have impact for the Lord in his community.

Prayer Connections

For the past few years, we’ve been taking groups from the States to areas in the mountains with hundreds of pockets of unengaged, unreached minority peoples. The trips are primarily Americans prayer walking through villages and areas they have “adopted”— praying continually, visiting regularly, partnering with locals, etc.
In 2016, we had an American leader come and want to see what this was all about and decide whether or not his congregation would get involved. We took him and some others high up in the mountains (14,000+ feet) in a very rural area where many of the villages consist of only a few homes. As they were driving through a village, the leader pointed west up another valley and asked what was up there. We hadn’t been that way before, so we didn’t know what was there. The leader, who was a very outdoorsy person, asked to be dropped off and allowed to hike up there by himself for the day. At the end of the day they picked him up, and he told them about his day, which hadn’t seemed too remarkable.
He said he had hiked, worshipped, and prayed up the valley. At one point he had been invited into a home. These people didn’t speak any English, and he didn’t speak their language, but they had a great time drinking tea together. He prayed for and blessed the home before he left. After the trip, he decided his congregation would adopt that valley.
The next summer, 2017, we were holding the semi-annual English camps which take place in our city for students from these mountain groups. One of the students, named Z, trusted in God during the camp. Afterward, he needed a ride back home, so one of our colleagues gave him a ride back to his very remote village. His home “happened” to be in the same remote valley, that had been adopted the summer before. And in fact, his home was exactly the same one that the leader had visited a year before! Z hadn’t been home that day in 2016, and didn’t meet the American leader. However, one year later, Z became the first believer in his valley.
By: Workers, Serving in Asia

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.

The Beauty in Staying

I’ve been told that lots of people in the younger generations are willing to go on mission trips, but we aren’t as willing to commit our lives to being long-term missionaries. People say that we don’t like commitment. We don’t like staying in one job for a long time. It may actually be easier for us to keep moving from one place to another. We strive to move on to bigger and better things.  There may be truth to those statements, but during my time in Mexico I have been challenged from those stereotypes of my generation.

When I arrived in Mexico as a part of Avance, I began working part-time at the safe house for girls. It’s actually the longest job I’ve ever had. I had never worked prior to my summers in college. I’ve realized I’m a person who likes to learn a lot; so I enjoy having lots of new experiences. If I get stuck in a routine without feeling like I’m doing anything meaningful, I get bored and start looking for new opportunities. However, being at the safe house for almost a year now, I am seeing the beauty in staying.

It took a long time for me to develop relationships with the girls at the safe house. It was hard. At one point I was truly considering switching to another ministry because I felt like I wasn’t helping anyone there. I was ready to move on to something new.

But God was faithful. Even when I was ready to say, “I’m just not made to do this kind of work,” He whispered, “Just keep going.”

After completing my summer internship in Mexico,  I decided to go home and raise additional funds in order to return for a full year. When I came back to the safe house, I came back to a lot of changes. There were new staff members and a new outlook on volunteers. My two partners from Avance and I were quickly given classes to teach and received more training, so we knew how we could better support the staff and work alongside them.

These changes gave me more opportunities for meaningful interactions with the girls. I started going there three full days a week instead of one. My time now overlaps with my friends from Avance, which has been very uplifting since we had all been struggling with feelings of inadequacy and inability to tangibly help the girls. We have been able to be of greater support to each other. We have been able to encourage each other in interacting with the girls.

The founder of the safe house told me that the girls had been lacking time to have fun and play in their schedules. I think this unofficially became a big role in our job. We made sure to include games and goofiness into our classes. A big part of what the safe house does outside of therapy and helping them through the healing process is teaching them structure, responsibility, and discipline. I would say all the girls lacked healthy structure and discipline growing up and it is important for them to learn; so, they can mature and function once they are back in society. On the other side of that, almost all of the girls didn’t get to have a normal childhood. They weren’t properly cared for and didn’t get to play. The abuse started when they were young. Because of this, another role we play is to rescue back the childhood they didn’t get to have.

God has also been using this period of “play” to work in my own life. He is drawing out my goofiness and quirkiness; using me to bring joy and light into the house that can sometimes feel like a dark place. God is reminding both myself and the girls that despite all the horrific things that can happen in this life and that has happened to them, He continues bringing goodness into our lives and wants us to walk in joy, with a light heart, and have those times to just ‘play’.

I have been in training since late October and am now beginning to pray with the girls on my own at times. I wasn’t sure how it would go. I wasn’t sure if they would actually feel safe opening up with me and telling me what is on their hearts and minds. Some girls haven’t felt comfortable doing that with me yet, but others have.

This is a new step for me as I’m now not only hanging out with the girls and teaching them different classes, but I’m now addressing deeper issues with them. I truly feel God has led me to this point and am excited to see where He takes me. Sometimes my negative thoughts slip back, and I think, “How I am capable or qualified for these girls to trust in me and for me to actually help them?” But I am quickly reminded of how far God has brought me and know He’s taking me further still. I know that though I still lack many things, but ultimately, He is the one ministering to the girls through me. For some odd reason He chose me for this job and my job is to be faithful to His calling and always open to His guidance.

I’m so grateful to God for pushing me to stay amidst the difficult and the unknown.

By: Cheyenne Klein, serving in Mexico City. 


Where There Is No Road

When people think of Fiji, they think of white sand beaches and tropical resorts. They’re not wrong! But behind the beaches and the tourist traps, are some of the most kind, generous, loving people I’ve ever met. In this small island chain in the South Pacific, many people have heard of God. You see, the Methodist denomination brought the Gospel many years ago. But after the Methodist teachers and missionaries left, ‘Christianity’ became an interesting hybrid between God and witchcraft. Worshipping many idols became commonplace again. They knew the story of Christ, and yet it had become marred by tradition and folklore.

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Fiji to serve on a short-term medical team. We landed in Nadi, and then drove about 5 hours to a small village. We were on Viti Levu, the larger of the two main islands. We were connected with a small church there, and we began to plan our medical teams. Each visit to a village would be complete with a full medical clinic, with each person being seen also getting to hear the truth of God.

Many of the people from these villages have to walk a great distance to church (if they are a Christian), or to the doctor, or a store. So we brought the clinic to them. The first day, we were in a small village, but a neighboring village’s chief was there. He asked if we could come to his village a few days later. We, of course, happily obliged. So, the following Wednesday, we arrived in his village. It was eight miles into the jungle, on entirely dirt and mud roads, up hills and through thickets. After we served their village, we left and went back to the church where we were staying. It all seemed very normal, as far as we were concerned.

The pastor who we worked with in Fiji, affectionally called Talla Talla, received a message later that week. The chief from Wednesday’s village would like a church built in his village, so his people can hear the Word of God without having to walk 16 miles roundtrip! We thought were elated then, but we were even more so when we heard that a church in Canada who also partnered with Talla Talla, would like to donate the funds to have this church built!


We go down dirt roads to help clean wounds, so that eventually, a small village in the jungle of Fiji can hear the Good News. It often feels like just the small acts: putting band aids on a wound, doing service projects, and facilitating events. But God is at work through that, and where there is no road, he makes a way in the wilderness.

By: Renee Gillespie, Short Term Teams Coordinator

Setting Goals

When you think of New Year’s, I’m sure you immediately think of New Year’s resolutions. A fresh start; a new leaf. An opportunity to grow and to be better than you were the year before.

It’s great in theory; but it doesn’t often have the expected follow through. Now, hear me out, I am all for setting goals. I set some each January, too. But each year I hear the phrase, “new year, new me,” and I think we do ourselves a disservice by waiting until the new year to work on becoming the best versions of ourselves. We miss out on the right now by focusing on the future. Each day we get a new opportunity to set and achieve new goals. Every morning brings a new chance to be a better version of ourselves than we were the day prior. So why aren’t we making the most of each day?

So, going into this new year, I am setting goals. But I’m trying to shift my resolutions from being a yearly thing, to being a daily one. I think simplifying this process for ourselves in the day-to-day will lead to greater success in the year-to-year. Let’s conquer 2018, one step at a time.

Post by Renee Gillespie, Short Term Teams Coordinator & Social Media Manager for United World Mission


What We’re Thankful For…

Earlier this fall, I asked the United World Mission office staff to let me know of a few things that they were thankful for. I gave them no prerequisites, but  I found that there was a lot of overlap (while also having a lot that differed). Here’s some of the responses that we had in common:

We are thankful for our families. We are thankful for our friends. We are thankful for a God who sees us and meets our needs. We are thankful to be able to work for an organization that is working daily to fulfill the Great Commission. 

It’s encouraging to me to know that the things that we have in common are rooted in relationship. Each of us said something along the lines about being thankful for God, His Word, and the people in our lives. I find great comfort in knowing that I am surrounded with people who hold those things in such high esteem.

At the same time, however, we are all individuals with specific things that we love and are thankful for. Here are some of the less spiritual and more personal things that we care about:

We are thankful for thunder and lightning. We are thankful for apple pie and ice cream. We are thankful for new paint in our office soon. We are thankful for new staff and our merger with Overseas Council. We are very thankful for coffee. 

There is so much to be thankful for. I pray that we wouldn’t only be grateful during the holiday season, but that we would choose to see each day through the lens of thankfulness.

If you’re reading this, we’re thankful for you.
Happy Thanksgiving from the UWM team.

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


Press Release: OCI and UWM

Nov. 8, 2017

Merger Brings Leadership Development Organizations Together to Further Serve Global Church

United World Mission to assume leadership of Overseas Council International, uniting formal and non-formal training efforts that help equip thousands.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Two organizations with a long history of helping grow and strengthen the global church through training and leadership development are joining forces to maximize their impact.

The merger will bring Overseas Council International (OCI,, based in Indianapolis, under the leadership of United World Mission (UWM,, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., effective Jan. 1, 2018.

The two groups have played a largely behind-the-scenes role in equipping thousands of missionaries, pastors, church planters and lay people over the past 70 years. Each emphasizes the development of indigenous leaders for effective ministry in their communities and nations. By uniting they expect to expand their reach and deepen their impact.

Founded in 1946 when a group of Ohio churches united to collaborate for global mission, UWM today has 400 staff serving more than 100 national partners in 48 countries. With an emphasis on non-formal methods, UWM makes ministry training accessible and reproducible to people that are outside the reach of formal efforts.

Established in 1974 by a group of businessmen in Indianapolis to raise funds to support Korean seminary students, OCI—or Overseas Council—today serves 130 partner schools in 70 countries which equip almost 60,000 students annually. Its focus is on formal theological education for Christian leaders who can equip and influence the church.

The combined organization will be headquartered in Charlotte, with OCI functioning under the name Overseas Council (OC), a Ministry of United World Mission.

“This move makes sense at so many levels,” said Dr. John Bernard, president of UWM. “We share many of the same values, even as we carry out ministry in distinct ways. We anticipate synergies that will lead to greater impact in both formal and non-formal ministry training. Beyond economic efficiencies, strategies, and aligned mission statements, we believe this merger enables us to better reflect the unity of Christ’s body on mission together.”

Scott Cunningham, OCI’s interim president and CEO, said that he believed the merger would be a “God-glorifying combination for the expansion of leadership development for the health of the global church, accomplishing more together, by God’s grace, than we ever could separately.”

# # #

About United World Mission

Founded in 1946, United World Mission (UWM, exists to develop well-trained, spiritually-formed leaders, and to strengthen and multiply disciple-making churches that proclaim and demonstrate the gospel.  They fulfill this mission by partnering with the church around the world. Currently UWM’s 400 staff serve more than 100 national partners in more than 48 countries. 

About Overseas Council International

Established in 1974 to provide Korean seminary student scholarships, Overseas Council ( has since grown into the largest leadership development ministry of its kind in the world. Under the banner “Called. Trained. Multiplied,” Overseas Council now “equips Christian leaders by partnering with vital seminaries worldwide to advance God’s kingdom.”

CUTLINE: FUSBC (Biblical Seminary of Colombia) in Medellín, Colombia, is one of the Christian leadership institutions with which Overseas Council (OC) and United World Mission (UWM) have partnered to help raise up and equip indigenous church leaders—work that continues as OC and UWM merge to maximize their efforts.


Little Taste of Heaven

Have you ever had a moment in your life where you felt like you experienced a little taste of heaven?  I had a moment like that recently when I traveled to Denmark.  I went with the goal of finding more opportunities for missionaries to serve alongside our Danish church partners.  While that goal was met, I also experienced a memorable day of connecting with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ from many different nations.


It was a Sunday and I visited 3 unique churches in Copenhagen.  We worshipped God in Danish and English with people from over 30 countries.  I remember thinking, “Heaven is going to be so cool to be with people from every part of the world and to worship God together”!

I was warmly welcomed at each church, making the stranger (me) feel at home far away from my home.  As I think back about the diverse family of God that I encountered that day I was encouraged with their expression of love through their hospitality and kindness. The Holy Spirit also brought a verse to my mind that is in John 13:5, “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”   What a difference in my life it was to have that lived out that day and I pray God continues to give me a deeper love for those he brings my way as well.

By: Jennifer Coshow, Mobilizer for Europe & Business Manager

Lessons Learned

This brief summer in Charlotte interning at United World Mission has gone by too fast. I came to UWM thinking I would be inputting data into a financial program and testing new systems. I have done both of these and more. The staff here has found plenty of things for me to do, if the opportunity presents itself I would like to continue helping out in the future.

UWM’s Chief Financial Officer asked me to create a cost of living estimator. It counts how many people want to go on a mission trip, where they want to go and for how long. It can factor in retirement, loans, education, health insurance and specific ministry expenses. Then, it creates a categorical budget by month and year and the whole cost a mission trip. There are also three option you can choose from, basic to live like a local, moderate to live like an American and quality to live the highest quality of life according to the UN database. The purpose of this application is to provide a quick glance of how much missionaries need to raise in support and that they are not forced raise too much.

The main purpose for coming to UWM was to help out the financial department. Each day I check to see if our missionaries emailed their expense reports and that they are approved. Then, I save and file them away ready to be reimbursed. Make sure you put your project number on your expense reports!

Though, the biggest time saver is the custom made macros I made for almost everyone. The macros take raw data out of the financial program on to an excel spreadsheet and correct the format into neat tables, totals or charts. To my surprise macros run on visual basic which is the only programming class I ever took. I did not find it appealing at all, but now I am grateful I took it. Now it gives me great joy to see the finished macros saving the staff from mind-numbing hours of data manipulation.

Through this whole time being here, I have learned what exactly it takes to be a missionary. You need money in your bank account, a home church with hundreds of people praying for God’s protection in your life and small achievable goals. However, that is just the prerequisites, once you are on the field it’s all in God’s hands. It is God, The Holy Spirit, who brings men and women into the body of Christ and we the body, are the hands and feet that carry Jesus’ message of salvation.

By: Phillipe Ma, Serving as a Summer Intern in the Charlotte, NC office.