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Photo Essay — Joy Springs #3
Photo Essay — Joy Springs #3

As with all cross-cultural work, it’s important to spend time getting to know the culture, landscape, geography, language, lifestyle and history of a place. When representatives from Pioneers-USA and CommNet Media visited teams on the field to capture photos, videos and stories of what God is doing in West Africa, they did much of the same legwork it takes for new-arrivals. They spent time observing life and asking questions of the long-term workers local people. Here is another glimpse of what they saw and learned during their visit.

For stories, videos and job opportunities from West Africa, visit our Joy Springs page. See more photos of West Africa in our first and second photo essays. 

The Cost of Conversion
The Cost of Conversion

First they lose their housing; family members kick them out. Any money they get from their families is gone. Young men may be beaten. Women may be harassed, neglected, or abandoned. Any of them may lose their jobs, or if they’re not employed, their opportunities to find jobs. When someone comes to Christ in a West African culture committed to another religion, like the one Julie*, a Pioneer, now calls home, word spreads fast.

 

“They lose community. They lose relationships. They are ostracized in a culture where relationships are everything. The [local] motto or core value translates, ‘peace is everything,’ and so you maintain peace in all your relationships. That’s the most important thing. And so [following Jesus] is like the worst thing you could do in a relationship. It shatters peace and usually the people have to leave town,” Julie explains.

 

"Especially at the beginning, it’s like being shunned. People don’t sell them things in the market. Taxis won’t pick them up. If a public transport driver knows they’ve come to Christ, they won’t let them on the bus," says Julie. “We’re seeing this last anywhere from five to seven years.”

 

If, however, someone is faithfully following Jesus through that time, the story may take a more positive turn. Their family begins to see that they are sincere and that their lives are actually changed for the better. Little by little, the family may allow them back in, even if a wall of separation remains. Some new believers cannot stand the pressure and isolation long enough, but Julie has seen persecution fortify the faith of others, who cling to Jesus all the more.

 

Where following Christ comes at such a cost, Julie is thankful to be working alongside local believers who have walked the road. Believers like Sana* who was rejected by his family but made a point of moving back to the neighborhood, setting up a home just a few minutes’ walk from where his family lived.

 

“For the longest time they wouldn’t come to his house. They had to walk by it to get out of the neighborhood, but they wouldn’t stop. They let him visit, though. And little by little through the years they watched and saw that he was sincere. He became a respected member of the community again, and the family took him back. When his father passed away, of all the children Sana was chosen to be the one to divide the inheritance and make the arrangements because he was the one who was most just.”

 

As someone who grew up in another culture, Julie has come to recognize the limits of her ability to relate to the experience of persecuted West African believers. This helps her appreciate her partnership with local Christians like Sana. “I can show them from God’s Word what He says to be true, but I’ve never been a Muslim. I’ve never been rejected by my family. All these things we’re talking about, I have not experienced them firsthand,” she explains, “but I have experienced the life transformation of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection, and that’s what I can share.”

 

* Names changed. 

See more stories from West Africa at Pioneers.org/JoySprings
Confronting African Stereotypes
Confronting African Stereotypes

The victim. The warlord. The noble savage. The witchdoctor. These and other negative stereotypes about Africans abound. Our news and entertainment sources may calcify these impressions. We hear about Apartheid, famine, AIDS, and Ebola. We think of the 276 girls kidnapped in Nigeria by Boko Haram, or Joseph Kony, the Ugandan guerilla leader. We picture scenes from Hotel Rwanda, or the Somali pirate attack in Captain Phillips and the civil war crisis in Black Hawk Down. We remember Out of Africa or The Gods Must Be Crazy.

 

Yet these images deny the complexity and diversity of Africa and label an entire continent and its people as violent, helpless, corrupt or backward.

 

The truth is far different. Much of Africa is peace-loving, progressive, empowered, educated and upright. And it’s not homogenous. Africa is made up of 54 nations, more than 800 ethnic groups and nearly 1000 languages. It’s about three times the size of the United States. That alone ought to be enough to challenge the power of these stereotypes.

 

The world of missions and evangelism has its own negative stereotypes, both in Africa and beyond. We may think of shallow evangelistic campaigns in which large numbers of people respond to the gospel but are never discipled or plugged into churches. We may picture missionary compounds where Westerners led the work and imported their own cultures instead of living among the people, contextualizing the message, and raising up local leadership. But missions history is more diverse than that, and today we see encouraging changes—especially in places like West Africa.

 

Take Yinka. He is a Nigerian Christian living in Ghana—a country of more than 27 million. A member of Pioneers-Africa, he is passionate about seeing the Good News spread in all of Africa. Like all Pioneers missionaries, he raises financial support for his ministry, but the economy makes this task difficult. So Yinka created a small business to supplement his fundraising and provide for his family. Over the last five years, Yinka has organized church-planting training events in multiple African countries, teaching Africans to lead Bible studies and plant churches. He emphasizes modeling and training new leaders long-term who can mentor other leaders. Hundreds of workers have taken these courses. Thousands have come to faith as a result.

 

Some Pioneers teams in Africa are all African, with members from one country or several. They may work directly with lay-ministry partners in their context. Other teams include members from all over the world working alongside African Pioneers. Julie*, who is American, is on one such team. Speaking of her African leaders, she says, “I want to work with them and under them. They know better than I do what the church should look like. We’re not there to plant an American church.”

 

Pioneers operates according to an agreed-upon list of Core Values. One of these is the local church. We strive to partner not only with churches that send their people to serve cross-culturally, but also with indigenous and emerging churches on the field.

 

From our perspective, stereotypes about Africa and Africans hinder partnership with the African church and its leaders. They don’t help us understand the people or encourage cultural awareness and respect.

 

Pray for our teams working in Africa. Ask God to help these diverse teams work in unity as they seek plant thriving, gospel-centered churches.


See videos, photo essays, stories and job opportunities at www.Pioneers.org/JoySprings.


*Name has been changed.

Photo Essay — Joy Springs #2
Photo Essay — Joy Springs #2
"What God is doing in Africa defies anybody being able to characterize it in words, in pictures or in video," says Eugene Yakohene, director of Pioneers-Africa. That may be right. But what we can do is show you a bit of the lifestyle and geography of this place where God is working in exciting ways, using His people to plant churches among the unreached people groups living in this remarkable area. Get a glimpse of life in West Africa. See the elements of the work of fishermen, body modification, Christian worship, market scenes and rural cooking. Click the arrows in the picture box for a full view.

See more photos from our first Joy Springs photo essay or watch the video.
Joy Springs
Joy Springs
West Africa is brimming with opportunities for cross-cultural church planting in a myriad of unreached people groups. And Pioneers-Africa is recruiting and sending a new generation of workers into the harvest. 

Witness the exuberance and creativity of our brothers and sisters in the Pioneers-Africa movement—their unique challenges, context, and perseverance. You'll be inspired by how they introduce people to fellowship with Jesus in this land where Joy Springs
Photo Essay — Joy Springs #1
Photo Essay — Joy Springs #1

Music, folklore, poetry and proverbs characterize life in West Africa. It's vibrant and has rhythm. But living is difficult. Resources like education, health care and water are scarce.

"In the midst of the lack, the African has found joy and exuberance," says Eugene Yakohene, director of Pioneers-Africa. "This joy springs from inside. If you imagine adding Jesus to the natural joy that the African already exhibits, there is no limit to what can happen." 

That's why we're calling our series of videos, articles and photos from West Africa "Joy Springs." The photos on the right will give you a glimpse of the people and landscape where our African partners are sowing seeds and reaping harvest.

See the second photo essay from Joy Springs.

Of Whales and Wildfires
Of Whales and Wildfires

“We are desperate. We are dying!”  A Nigerian church leader sent this heartfelt plea in a letter to Ted and Peggy Fletcher in late 1978, an impetus that led to the launch of Pioneers. Joshua Ekpikhe wasn’t looking for money. He needed administrative and leadership assistance in training and mobilizing the African church to fulfill the Great Commission.

 

Shortly after receiving the letter, Ted traveled to Nigeria to see how he could help Joshua and his ministry, Christian Witness Team. He returned inspired to start an organization that would send people to serve alongside Joshua and others around the world who were working on the front lines among the unreached. 

 

Nearly 40 years later, Pioneers’ work in Africa is composed of a growing community of 70-plus families working in 13 countries in West Africa. These African missionaries are served by a team based in Accra, Ghana, led by Pioneers-Africa director, Eugene Yakohene. “Africa is a melting pot of natural topography and oceans,” Eugene says, “and some of the most exuberant, lively people you could ever meet.”

 

The church in Africa has likewise become a center of growth and spiritual vitality while the influence of the Western church is receding. A 2013 study by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity estimates that Africa will be home to 630 million Christians by 2020. 

 

The diversity within Africa means that opportunities for cross-cultural missions within the continent are myriad, and Pioneers-Africa is working to recruit and send a new generation of church planters to take the gospel to unreached Muslim and animist people groups. 

 

Their strategy is one in which gospel proclamation and meeting physical needs naturally integrate. “Pioneers-Africa teams work among some of the most underprivileged people in the world,” Eugene explains. “Therefore, you cannot talk about the spiritual without addressing the physical.” One team in Benin packages and distributes clean water from a well they dug in partnership with churches in the US. In Guinea, teams have launched Bible clubs and after-school programs for children from Muslim homes.

 

“These holistic programs are not the end in themselves,” Eugene says. “We want people to give their lives to Jesus Christ and commit to a Christ-centered life that leads them to heaven.”

 

A key challenge for African church planters is that their passion for evangelism and discipleship often outpaces the resources they need to do the job. Many are bi-vocational, funding their ministry with a combination of business ventures and support from sending churches and partners around the world.

 

Church planters often travel between villages on motorcycles, bicycles and on foot, building relationships, looking for receptive people and leading Bible studies. Eugene and his team in Accra work hard to support their field workers with financial assistance, counseling and training.

 

“My heart cry is to raise the standard of living among these workers,” Eugene explains. “In spite of the little they are receiving, they are discipling people, and new disciples are joining the ranks of church planters.”

 

Eugene points to the largest church in Benin, planted by a Pioneers missionary nearly 20 years ago. It now has second- and third-generation congregations that were started soon after its inception.

 

“It’s hard to capture what God is doing,” he explains. “The best ministry work is being carried out by some of the most unlikely people. Sometimes highly skilled people tend to depend more on their skills, knowledge and abilities than on the word of God.”

 

The spiritual breakthroughs being experienced by the teams in West Africa are a sign that God is at work, and Eugene attributes it to the fervent prayers of the body of Christ.

 

“One of my mentors, Solomon Aryeetey [founder of Pioneers-Africa] said, ‘When a whale is giving birth, you can’t stop it—you just get out of the way,’” Eugene says, laughing.  “That’s the way it is with Pioneers-Africa. It’s spreading like wildfire, and yet we want to also bring quality to it.”

See a short story from Kobe, one of Pioneers-Africa's missionaries who walks up to 25 miles a day to share the gospel in surrounding villages. See our video and other stories from West Africa here.

25 Miles
25 Miles

Kobe is a Pioneer from Ghana, West Africa. For years he has walked up to 25 miles a day to tell people in the surrounding villages about Jesus. Vehicles are often unreliable, but he doesn’t allow that to hinder him—instead, he uses his legs. Seeing people know Jesus is his great motivation: “I will walk for the Lord all the days of my life.”

 

Kobe knows that people have physical and social challenges in their lives. That’s why he is not just interested in the spiritual health of people. He wants to see social change and projects like the drilling of wells that will benefit whole villages. Eventually, he hopes the ministry can grow and that he may train up younger missionaries to tell more people about Jesus.

 

Kobe is married to Felicia, and they have two children, Gabriel and Divine. Though he trained as a welder and a mechanical engineer, he has chosen full-time ministry. He says that his days leave him tired, but there is always a bed waiting to give him rest.

Click here to read more, see photos or watch videos about what God is doing in West Africa.

A Child's Education
A Child's Education
"When we don't have resources, we go anyway," says Pioneers-Africa director, Eugene Yakohene. "But when we have them, we do the best we can."

This passion is what drives our brothers and sisters in Africa, Pioneers' second-largest missionary workforce. Like those sent out from the US, African missionary families raise their own funding. Due to economic challenges, most are living on just a few dollars a day—not enough to cover their children's school fees.

For the next six weeks we are raising awareness and funds to make sure that Pioneers-Africa missionaries overcoming great challenges to take the gospel to the unreached don't have to sacrifice their children's education.

Watch the video on the left and read more here.
Encountering the World of Islam
Encountering the World of Islam

Recently we touched base with a woman who volunteers in the global outreach efforts at one of our partner churches. Rachel’s involvement grew out of an experience she had in Ethiopia on a medical mission team sponsored by the church. “A Muslim came through a clinic we were doing. [He] was the first Muslim I had ever met,” she explains. Rachel and her team asked if they could pray for him, as they usually did with patients. He agreed. But as she started to pray, Rachel realized she had no idea how her words might sound to him, what his life might be like, or what, as a Muslim, he might believe. “I came home with a lot of questions.”

 

A few weeks later Rachel found herself enrolled in a class at her church called Encountering the World of Islam (EWI). This 12-week class is hosted by local churches to help believers in their community grow in their understanding of Muslims and learn to reach out to them. Rachel’s church has now sponsored EWI classes many times. She helps coordinate the classes.

 

“God uses the course to touch hearts and stir passion for Muslims in the heart of believers. It’s a good chance to learn what Muslims believe (and what they believe we believe) and what the barriers to the gospel are,” says Rachel.

 

“It changes the way people watch the nightly news and helps make them open to what God would have them do. It’s also a refresher on grace… Your heart is humbled again by what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.”

 

Any member of the church who is considering or open to serving in the Muslim world is encouraged to take the class. Others minister to Muslims closer to home. Class alumni are now building relationships with Muslim refugees and partnering with ministries that teach English and citizenship classes.

 

Rachel’s church also works with a nearby university to provide host families for international students. Organizers often struggle to find enough families to connect with Muslim men who want to visit American homes. This year, Rachel and her church are happy to say they were able to help meet the demand. After taking EWI, their people were no longer afraid to befriend Muslims.

 

Learn more about Encountering the World of Islam
A Different Kind of Ministry Team
A Different Kind of Ministry Team

“When we started working with Iraqi refugees we had the same paradigm we had when we were overseas,” says John, a Pioneer serving among refugees in the United States. “It’s just you and maybe a small team doing the work. But there are 1200 people we go to church with every week, and we realize God wants to use them, too! When you’re working with diaspora people in a place where the church is already established [like in the US] that provides a completely different dynamic.”

 

So John and Sylvia started mobilizing their church and other churches in their area to care for the refugees around them. They started ESL classes and recruited volunteers to provide childcare and transportation as well as help teach classes and help with furniture, groceries, and other practical needs. “The vision was that they would establish relationships with Iraqi women and get into their homes. We wanted to get Christians involved in Muslim’s lives,” Sylvia explains.

 

It was slow at first, but now they’re seeing a thriving network emerge. “So we’re starting to see a much bigger imprint in the community by having volunteers than we could have ourselves. With 50 families that all want to see you, you can’t go deep with them. I challenge people to get involved with ONE family. We have enough people in our church that all of our refugees could have five Christian friends.”

 

Sometimes the language barriers are high and the volunteers don’t know if they are making a difference. “I had a woman who volunteered to drive people to a beginning English class. They all spoke Arabic in her car. What did she expect? But she was so frustrated that she couldn’t talk to them that she quit.”

 

Sylvia wants to help volunteers taking a step back and understand the difference they can make even if results seem slow. “We need to share the gospel with words,” she says, “But that doesn’t negate the amazing power of what we communicate with our actions. We can communicate love and acceptance and welcome to people who have lost everything. When we do, God is glorified by that.”

John points out that the whole community is watching. They see the love and service the Christian community provides. “One guy whose wife takes classes at our church went to pick her up and was impressed at all these Christians helping Muslim women out to their cars. I was able to share the gospel with him because of it. These Christian women didn’t know that they were being watched and someone was asking questions about why they do what they do,” says John.

Word of a kind act can travel far, and that’s just as true for the actions of short-term volunteers and of long-term workers like John and Sylvia. “I’ve walked into apartments to visit friends and they say, ‘I’m on Skype with my brother in Baghdad; say hello!’ I’ve had people in Baghdad thank me for what we’re doing. News is traveling back to places like Iraq.”

 

Faithfulness in friendship and sharing the gospel as you share your lives may lead to greater spiritual openness over time, says John. “Share in such a way you’ll get another opportunity to share again! Because they need to hear it again and again.”

See more about John and Sylvia's ministry here.

Befriending the Bewildered
Befriending the Bewildered

We asked Sylvia, a Pioneer who works with refugees in the US, what life is like for the women. “Back in the Middle East, they have a social network,” she responds. “Their sisters, mothers, and friends all live close. Here they are isolated in apartments where they don’t know anyone, just sitting indoors just being depressed! Relationships are huge in addressing that.”

Pretty much everyone struggles with depression, Sylvia explains. “Homesickness is some of it. We know what that’s like from living overseas ourselves. But it’s multiplied way out, when you think about it, for refugees. I mean, when we were overseas we had people praying for us and excited about what we were doing, and felt God wanted us to go, and in the back of our minds, we knew we could always quit and come home. But it was still really hard!”

Her refugee friends have none of those advantages. “They don’t want to come here! They lose family, and a lot of them are mid-career and lose that. They are dealing with a lot of trauma. They are worried about people back there but have no home to go back to. Here it is raining all the time and they are in a little apartment and don’t even know their neighbors.”

As a result, “If I just go and spend a couple of hours with a woman, even with a language barrier… a couple hours drinking tea, that’s the social moment she really needed. Small thing, you think. But it can be really big to someone.”

She also finds that many of her friends are bewildered by a lot of things in America. Just having someone they can ask “What does this mean?” can be a huge comfort. She recommends trying to walk alongside people and asking questions about what’s going on in their life and what they are facing right now. “As they get to know and trust you, make yourself available,” she adds. Even after years in the country, when many may be well settled in and thriving, they still have questions and may need a helping hand or listening ear.

Sylvia’s husband John comes alongside men and others them friendship and help. “Relationships with men may mean helping them buy a car and get established,” he says. “Their lives have been upended; you’re helping them land on their feet.”

John has noticed that the men he works with also tend to be more social than American men. “They like to do things in groups, in groups of guys. Some of them like to go fishing. I don’t fish, but I’m trying to connect guys in my church who fish with refugee men who want to fish. I started taking guys bowling. They really like that. In the spring we do a lot of outings with families to show them how beautiful their new home is!”

Some service opportunities are seasonal. “Starting in January I do taxes,” says John. “I probably did 13 people’s taxes this year. Mostly their taxes are pretty simple and they qualify for the free version of the tax software. You just sit next to them and help them understand the questions and file.”

Read more about John and Sylvia's story here.

Opportunities Never Seen Before
Opportunities Never Seen Before
Over 1.8 million Muslim-background people now call Europe home.

Many of them are not citizens.  They may not fluently speak the language of their host countries and many are disillusioned with the only faith they have ever known — Islam.  They are immigrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in Middle-Eastern countries.

However, their presence in Europe — while stemming from tragedy — poses an opportunity that the Body of Christ has never seen before.  That is an opportunity to freely share the life-giving news of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

This opportunity has already seen great fruit.  According to several reliable European and American news sources, the refugee crisis in Europe has created a new surge of interest in Christianity.  A church in Berlin has recently grown from 150 to 700 (mostly Muslim-background converts).  In May of 2016, 80 Muslim refugees were baptized in a church in Hamburg.  We are seeing this kind of fruit in other areas of Europe such as the United Kingdom, Austria, Greece, Bosnia, France, and elsewhere.  

These numbers are real and they reveal the Holy Spirit’s work among Muslim-background people across Europe.  The 10/40 Window, which refers to parts of the developing/majority world that have little Christian presence, is now showing itself in Europe.  

Do you want to be a part of one of this century’s greatest Christian turning points? 

The time is now and the place is Europe — the new great mission field.

See more about what Pioneers is doing in Europe and North America among refugees, immigrants and international students at www.Pioneers.org/NextDoor

You may read this article in it's original format here on Pioneers in Europe's website.
While It Is Day Report
While It Is Day Report

It’s everywhere. News of violence and terrorism.  Talk of how to insulate ourselves from the refugee crisis. But we hear little of how God is working in the Arab world.

 

Pioneers’ Arab World Media is making a difference in the lives of Muslims. Through media—video, social media, chat rooms, articles—they share Jesus and His offer of hope and love. And God is using it to bring a fundamental shift in the lives of Arab people.

 

See what some of these Arab world Muslims and new Christians have written in the last few months…

 

How can I make a fresh start in my life and begin again?

 

Thank you so very much for your care and encouragement. Now I don’t feel lonely. I have a very special family after my conversion to follow Christ. I’m not alone when I go through difficult times as a new believer in Christ. Jesus gives me peace, joy and security that I have never experienced before. Thank you again.

 

I think I am totally blessed. It is the first time I have found answers to my prayers. I am isolated and living in a corrupt place. Now I have found on [your website] rich articles, answers to my questions and someone to care for me and guide me. Now I can say I can be a really good Christian because of [your website].

 

I saw the Lord Jesus Christ in a dream three months ago. He said to me: “Trust that I am He.” I asked him: “Are you Jesus?” He answered, “Yes.”

 

I used to be a Muslim, but I have become a Christian. Life is very difficult for me with my family who are still Muslims. They don’t know about my faith. I can’t read the Bible in front of them or go to church.

 

I’m attracted by the Christian religion. Back home I wouldn’t have the freedom to talk about this. Our society doesn’t allow it. I had a dream about Jesus. I need your help.

 

I feel as if I’m a new person. Yesterday, and then again today, I remembered you in my prayers. I told my husband about you and said that you had opened my heart to see the love of Jesus for me. I feel a great sense of peace.

 

I would like to become a Christian, but I would be killed if I changed my Islamic religion—although I never chose it in the first place. What should I do? Please help me or guide me to someone who can.

 

The word “love” that I read in the Gospel made me think about becoming a Christian. I want to know more about God’s love, as I’m a new believer. Could you please tell me what you know about that? I am hungry to know more.

 

I feel like a young child who is full of joy, jumping up and down all the time, after my salvation, I don’t know what to do! 

Read the full campaign report here. You may read the original proposal here. And if you would like to give a gift to help the work of Pioneers Arab World Media, click here to learn more. 

Love Moves Report
Love Moves Report

We see it on the news and read it on the internet. Victims of war. Victims of disease. It’s hard to fight compassion fatigue when you don’t know how to help. It’s information that’s hard to translate into action.

 

But God can make a way for us to help and build his kingdom.

 

Rani is an Indian woman who reminds me of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well. The fact that Jesus knew them before they even met Him had a powerful impact on them both.

 

Rani’s family and community rejected her after her husband died of complications from HIV. She learned that she had HIV, too, and tried to commit suicide in a field outside her village, but God intervened.

 

Later she remembered hearing about a ministry for women like her. She sought them out only to find love and respect from Pioneers missionaries and other Christian women who have similar stories.

 

“I didn’t know who God was,” Rani says smiling. “But God knew who I was.”

Now Rani has employment as a seamstress in a Pioneers business working with people who treat her like family. She says that sometimes she forgets that she has HIV. (Watch Rani's Story)

 

We hear similar stories coming from Pioneers who are working with refugees in difficult places around the world. For example, 17 Syrian and Iraqi refugee families have come to faith in the last year. Like Rani, these people are marginalized and have great need. However, showing love and care by meeting their practical needs, listening to their stories and sharing the gospel message with them starts movements of faith.

 

“We see a complete difference in your way—the way of the believers in Jesus,” one Syrian woman proclaimed. “We want to be like that. We want to live in love.”

 

The Love Moves campaign supports movements of faith in places where God is already working among those who are broken by war and disease. We want to send more missionaries to catalyze new movements while training them to minister more effectively. 

 

See some of the ways that God moved in 2016 through the Love Moves campaign by reading a full report here. Read the full proposal as it originally appeared. If you are interested in similar projects of Pioneers, take a moment to look at our India HIV Ministries or see more about the current World Next Door campaign that is a means to reach refugees, immigrants and international students.

Meeting the Strangers Next Door
Meeting the Strangers Next Door

When we consider cross-cultural missions, we typically think of going to a faraway place where people are dramatically different in their traditions and lifestyle. But a small group of Pioneers, like Caleb and Sarah, are doing something slighty different.

“Originally we felt God was calling us to go overseas as any traditional missionary does, and we planned on working in a Muslim context. So we took a vision trip to the area we were considering. When we came home, we were ready to pack our bags and head overseas.”

 

As Caleb and his wife were preparing, though, their journey took a surprising turn. A leader in their church introduced them to J.D. Payne’s book Strangers Next Door:  Immigrant, Migration, and Mission. Caleb and Sarah learned that a few hundred thousand individuals from the unreached people group they wanted to serve among had come to the US. “We had our minds blown,” Caleb admits. They started to wonder if God might have a place for them in reaching Muslims in “diaspora,” those who had been scattered across the world as refugees and immigrants.

 

Caleb and Sarah began doing research on who might be doing ministry with their focus population, where they were working, and what kind of work they might be doing. They discovered that the city with the largest unreached population also had many evangelical organizations and Christians in local churches who were engaging their new neighbors.

 

Another city had a smaller population of this unreached group, but also fewer evangelical resources that could reach them. Caleb realized it might be more strategic to serve in the second city. After all, the chances of a member of this group hearing the Gospel or being befriended by someone who could share it with them was quite small. After further research and prayer, says Caleb, he and Sarah saw the need for committed, intentional laborers in the second city and they felt a huge burden to be part of that.

See the second part of Caleb and Sarah's story. Their ministry grew with cups of tea, language learning and starting a business.

Also, get a free copy of J. D. Payne's recent book, Unreached Peoples, Least Reached Placeshere.

Language Learning Opens Doors
Language Learning Opens Doors

If your cross-cultural ministry means working with the unreached who have come to your own country, you don’t need to learn their language—or do you? Caleb and Sarah, Pioneers who work with Muslim refugees and immigrants in the US, look at it differently. “We think it is better to share the gospel in the language of the people,” Caleb explains. Caleb is thinking globally. Just a handful of individuals in this group have come to know Christ, and church-planting efforts have yet to succeed in any part of the world where they live. Caleb hopes that by working in the language of the people, evangelism and discipleship efforts have the potential to go further. “We don’t want it to stop in America,” he explains.

 

Working to learn the language of the people has other advantages for Caleb and Sarah. A relationship-based language-learning strategy gives him and Sarah the opportunity to develop close relationships with a language helper who spends hours in their home every week, much as might be the case overseas. It also motivates Caleb to visit the restaurants and cafes where men from the culture spend much of their time. They work long hours in their jobs, then come after work for tea or a meal, to watch sports and talk about politics and news from home. There Caleb can practice his conversational skills and get help with his language homework, building relationships at the same time.

 

Spending time in the restaurants and cafes was difficult at first; these are environments no American ever enters, he explains. “I knew I’d be a fish out of water.” Initial efforts were met with coolness or indifference. By not giving up, he eventually found men who welcomed him into their circle, and he became a regular there.

 

Though many connections began by asking the immigrants and refugees to help him (with learning their language), in time Caleb was able to help meet their needs as well. He began a business that helps provide them with products they miss from their home country but are unable to easily find in America. Many are surprised that he understands and cares about their efforts to maintain ties to their home culture, and it has opened many doors for relationship.

See how Caleb and Sarah caught the vision for cross-cultural ministry here in the U.S. by reading the first part of their story here.

 

*Names have been changed.

From the Edge
From the Edge
Consider a life-changing summer trip working among unreached peoples alongside Pioneers missionaries. The Edge is a 6 to 10 week summer mission trip that immerses young adults in a new culture and language and invites growth and understanding of God and what he is doing in the nations.
From Albania to Greece
From Albania to Greece

After living in Albania for several years, Andrew and Alecia moved to Greece to make disciples among Albanians who have immigrated there. They recently partnered with local believers to plant an Albanian-speaking fellowship at the foot of Mars Hill in Athens, just steps from where Paul preached the gospel 2,000 years ago.

For more information about what God is doing through the movement of people around the world, visit Pioneers.org/NextDoor.

Would-be Rambo Missionary
Would-be Rambo Missionary

“We looked at opportunities to serve in South Asia or the Middle East, but God directed us here, specifically to our home town,” says Ben* and adds with a smile, “It’s the one place I told the Lord I would never go. I never had the vision or creativity to imagine what God would do with the unreached here… to strategically open doors that wouldn’t be open if we were overseas.”

“My story is similar to a lot of folks who are working with diaspora peoples… I had to swallow my pride,” he says. “We’d told everybody God has called us to the Muslim world. I thought I’d be a Rambo missionary and go to the hardest places. It has taken number of years to see the long view. Now I’m grateful that God has kept us here, and for the fruit we are able to see.”

The journey began when Ben, his wife, and their small group from church decided to host a game night at the house for international students. “A Saudi student was among those who showed up. The very next day, he called and asked if he could move in with us to improve his English. The next thing we knew he was living with us! He became like part of our family. And, a few weeks later, he said, ‘My cousin is coming from Medina [Saudi Arabia]. Can he sleep on the couch for a few nights until he finds an apartment?’”

Through their relationships with these two young men, a network of friendships opened to Ben and his family. In the several years since then they have been able to form meaningful connections with hundreds of Muslim international students. They participate in the students' lives, host them for meals and take them on outings. Along the way they live out the gospel in their midst and share scripture with those who respond and want to know more.

 

Please pray for Pioneers like Ben as they walk through these open doors.

Though Ben serves with Pioneers and has the training and vision for a long-term gospel ministry among students like these, he’s glad to equip and work hand-in-hand with volunteers who may have little such experience. We asked Ben what advice he might give American Christians who want to build relationships with Muslims students and other internationals. Read what Ben had to say here

Name has been changed.

What Can We Do for International Students?
What Can We Do for International Students?

When God opened Ben’s* heart to the nations and called him into ministry, he naturally assumed he’d be serving as a missionary overseas, preferably in one of the harder places. Instead, he finds himself part of a team that works with international students and refugees in the very city where he grew up.

We asked Ben what advice he might give American Christians who want to build relationships with international students, and particularly Muslim students like those with whom he works.

“My biggest encouragement is to show up,” he simply said. “God has done the heavy lifting in bringing them here from places like Saudi Arabia and Libya and Iran, some of the least-reached places in the world, and these are future leaders in their country. Just show up in their lives.”

Practically, what can we do? “One of the biggest needs or opportunities is to open their homes. I find that this is doable for a lot of Americans—to actually host an international student.”

 

Most universities around the country have programs that match international students with host families who may take the student in to live with them, host them on holidays, or simply connect with them regularly during their time in the U.S. In addition to university-based programs, ask others in your area about international student ministries which may be based in churches or connected with Christian organizations.

 

While cross-cultural training is helpful, openness to learn and faithfulness in friendship are the keys. One family serving alongside Ben hosted four Iranians in their home for a Thanksgiving meal. Four years later they are still connecting with these students on a monthly basis. “It’s opened a whole world of Iranians to them. They aren’t ‘in ministry,’ they are just laypeople with a heart for Iran. And now they have a real dynamic ministry with Iranians.”

 

Many Muslim students see the fear reflected in the media and sometimes in the eyes of Americans, and are scared about what may happen to them. “My phone was blowing up on election night with calls and texts from Saudis wondering, ‘What does this mean? Are we going to have to go home?’” As Ben points out, we in the American church have a unique opportunity, especially now, to open our homes and lives to internationals who live among us. Ben urges us, “Pray that the church would see this as an opportunity to be ambassadors for Christ.”

 

» Read more about Ben’s story.


Name has been changed.

Around the Campfire
Around the Campfire

“One of my passions is backpacking, rafting, anything outdoors really,” explains Jon*, a Pioneer who serves among unreached people in the US. But do those passions have anything to do with missions? Jon has found they do. Many of the internationals he works with are young men from North Africa and the Middle East. Some of their families are just a few generations removed from desert-dwelling Bedouin nomads. Before oil was discovered in their countries, they lived a very simple lifestyle. Backpacking may not be part of their culture, but they know what it is to go out to the desert, set up tents, and spend a couple of days in the wilderness, away from it all.

 

“And for the guys, they like adventure. They all come wanting to explore this country and end up sitting in class most of the time. Most don’t have cars, and they are bored!” The hiking and camping trips Jon organizes for international students give them something exciting to do.

 

These trips also provide handles for volunteers who want to get their feet wet in international student ministry. They have the chance to make new friends. Some end up bonding with the students on the long road trips, forming relationships that develop further from there.

 

Getting away from homework, routine, and the business of daily life also encourage greater reflection and foster deeper connections than one can find in the city. “Something amazing happens around the campfire,” says Jon. “Almost always the conversations turn to faith.”

Name has been changed.

Free Book: Unreached Peoples, Least Reached Places
Free Book: Unreached Peoples, Least Reached Places
Picture it...you live near train tracks or an airport or a fire station. Every day the commotion stirs, yet you are able to block it out. Sometimes you merely notice that you didn't notice the train go by, or the wail of the sirens or the whoosh of the jets flying overhead.

According to J. D. Payne, author of Unreached Peoples, Least Reached Places, the same phenomenon is happening in cities and churches throughout America. But instead of the loud disruptive noises, we are tuning out the lostness of the foreigners who live among us.

J. D. says, "What happens when we look around our land and realize that the nations are no longer over there but also over here—in our backyard? ...foreign and domestic merge...boundaries blur...and the distant exotic is now a stranger next door."

With insights into the makeup of the lostness that exists in our cities and states, J. D. gives practical advice about how to build a relationship with that stranger that lives next door, or works in the cubicle next to yours or whose child goes to school with your child. He urges us to guard against overlooking the familiar and obvious lostness around us. 

We'd love to offer you J. D. Payne's book, Unreached People, Least Reached Places—a free gift to you—as a companion piece to our current campaign, The World Next Door

To claim your free copy of Unreached Peoples, Least Reached Places: An Untold Lostness in America by J. D. Payne, please contact Martha at development@pioneers.org or call her at 407-581-7379. Please indicate whether you would like a hardcopy or a digital copy (in PDF, Kindle, or eReader) loaded onto a 16 GB USB flash drive. Please include your mailing address so that we can send it your way.

Rob Ends Up in an Orchard
Rob Ends Up in an Orchard
In this video—the fourth and final in our Middle Ground series—Rob accompanies Pioneers workers in Central Asia as they go through the routines of daily life. They walk through the city streets, interacting with a downtrodden man and a woman who is happy in her cultural traditions. They end up at an orchard in the "Celestial" Mountains, which reminds Rob that there is gospel work to be done until the day Jesus returns. 

Part I   — Rob Goes to Central Asia
Part II  — Rob Experiences Death and Life
Part III — Rob Climbs the Holy Mountian

Photo Essay – Middle Ground #3
Photo Essay – Middle Ground #3
Vast expanses, sparse populations, multiple languages and great hospitality characterize much of Central Asia. This Middle Ground is a place where the ideals of the Soviet past and traditional culture meet the modern age and an increasingly global marketplace.

Take a moment to check out a photo essay from a Pioneers field worker and photographer as he learns about Turkic peoples and their unique cultures.
Rob Climbs the Holy Mountain
Rob Climbs the Holy Mountain
In this video, Rob Climbs the Holy Mountain, our tour guide experiences more of Central Asia—worker ants, a cave of wisdom, the promise of a fertility slide, the blessing of a local woman, the heart music of the people and prayer with believers. Watch Rob on this leg of his journey.

See the first two videos (Part I, Part II), photo essays and other articles about the Middle Ground here


How Did The Church Survive?
How Did The Church Survive?

In the best-selling book The Insanity of God (and now a documentary film of the same name), Nik Ripkin describes a personal journey to understand and support Christians in places where being a Christian may seem to be a death sentence. He, his wife Ruth, and those who partnered with them aimed to discover what Christians who have survived great struggles and persecution in other parts of the world have to teach those experiencing persecution today—as well as people like us who hear their stories and cry out to God for those in desperate need.

It’s not surprising that they began their journey in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Nik interviewed believers who had held onto their faith during the 70 years of the Communist rule and systematic religious oppression. Across Russia, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe, Christians were ridiculed and pressured and churches were closed. Leaders and other believers were arrested, tortured, and sometimes put to death. Through legislation and social pressure, every effort made to keep parents from passing on their faith to their children in hopes that the church might die out within a single generation.

Yet, as Ripkin reports, “under communism, the church had found a way to survive and often thrive.” Scripture and song kept them going when scattered or imprisoned. “Looking back now, I understand that one of the most accurate ways to detect and measure the activity of God is to note the amount of opposition that is present,” says Ripkin. “The stronger the persecution, the more significant the spiritual vitality of the believers.”

For these believers, persecution became as expected as “the sun coming up in the East.”

The years since that time have brought continued challenges but also some new ones. Some churches have made compromising their faith a part of their strategy for survival, urging members to lay low, avoid rocking the boat, and hold back on evangelism. In some places, believers still struggle to trust anyone, hiding their stories rather than sharing them with the next generation. In some areas, persecution is much less these days, but believers may be less zealous for their faith. Younger Christians may not cling to and memorize the Scriptures like believers during Soviet days. Ripkin puts in this way: “The Russian Church had lost in its first decade of ‘freedom’ what Soviet believers had managed to hold onto under communism for most the century.’

Pray for Russian believers and others who live in Central Asia and across the former Soviet Union. May they grow, thrive, multiply, and reach out cross-culturally despite bouts or fears of persecution and the temptation to compromise or drift away from their faith.

She Came for Dance
She Came for Dance

The music, drums and dancing captivated her. It was Aygul’s first time to visit a church in her hometown, and it wasn’t anything like what she expected. Her only knowledge of Christian culture came from the Russian Orthodox Church.

 

Aygul is a 23-year-old Uighur* (pronounced we-gur) woman. Though her mother is Russian, she identifies with her father’s Uighur heritage, meaning she was raised Muslim.  

 

Because church was free to attend, Aygul began to visit weekly. She didn’t care about the gospel—she went for the dancing. She soon realized that the people of the church cared for her, and she found herself interested in everything—even the Bible.

 

 “I had disappointments in each sphere of my life,” she recalls sadly.

 

Her parents had divorced. Parties, alcohol and cigarettes no longer numbed the emotional pain. She had conflicts with friends and family.

 

“It was cruel for me,” she sighs. “I was just crushed.”

 

One night she fell to her knees in the privacy of her bedroom and cried out to God, “If you are alive, just help me…because nobody can understand me.” And the Holy Spirit moved.

 

“I gave all my life to Jesus, with all my mind, all my soul, with everything I am,” Aygul recalls with a smile. “I started to share the gospel with everyone. I told them that Jesus is God. If you give your heart to Him, He can help you.”

 

But they didn’t have the ears to hear. Her sister disowned her, and her friends were lost to their party lifestyle, but she knew that life in Christ was so much better than her “lost life.”

 

Since then, her sister and extended family have come around, accepting but disliking her faith.

 

“Though my family is Muslim, they see real faith in action. They respect it. We still have arguments sometimes,” she concedes. “They think that my family should be the most important thing in my life. I assure them that I love them.”

 

Aygul says that her people believe that to be Uyghur is to be Muslim. However, she is thankful for the part of her culture that is generous and hospitable. But in the end, there is one thing she wants most for her people.

 

“My greatest hope for the Uighurs,” she utters almost as a prayer, “is that they will come to Jesus. Jesus is for everyone. He is the meaning of life for all people.”

 

 

*The Uighurs are a Turkic people group found primarily in Central and East Asia. Pray for the harvest among them through expressions of Christian faith and worship (like dance) and the love of His people.

Download a free eBook with testimonies of many other Central Asian believers by clicking here

Free eBook
Free eBook

God is transforming lives in Central Asia. One Pioneer felt called to collect the testimonies of believers from a Muslim background. Take this opportunity to read these stories of how real men and women from an area of the world we call the Middle Ground had personal encounters with Jesus in our exclusive free ebook, They Loved Not Their Lives. To download the ebook, click one of the links below.


MOBI (Kindle & Kindle apps)
EPUB (Nook, iBooks, & tablets)

*Mobile users may need to download these files to their desktop first before sending them to their ebook readers. 

 

Crossroads
Crossroads
Through the ages, Central Asia has been a crossroads. People have moved through it from one place to another and it’s often been overlooked, a place of dry hard ground. In this informational video about Central Asia, a Pioneer explains why Central Asia needs people who are willing to go live in the Middle Ground—learning the language and culture. There is good soil in the hearts of people who are ready to hear the Good News. 

Watch the video on the right and then check out photo essays, stories, opportunities and other videos from this crossroads on our #MiddleGround landing page.
Rob Experiences Death and Life
Rob Experiences Death and Life
Central Asia is breathtaking in its scenic vistas and the hospitality of its people. Its history and spiritual need after centuries of being a crossroads also takes your breath away. 

In this second video of our Middle Ground series, Rob Experiences Death and Life, our tour guide (Rob) heads out of the city with Pioneers workers to visit a mountain village and a traditional jail, or summer pasture where a shepherd tends his flock. Rob experiences both the rich hospitality of a meal with his hosts and the unsettling reality of what it took to make that meal possible. 

See the first video in this series, Rob Goes to Central Asia and a photo essay of the people and places in this Middle Ground.
Photo Essay – Middle Ground #2
Photo Essay – Middle Ground #2

After 70 years in the Soviet educational system—in which people were taught there is no God—there is a spiritual void in Central Asia. As a result, people are asking, “Who is God? And if He exists, how is He worshipped?”

 

After the Soviet era, many Central Asian countries saw a quick rise in the growth of the Church. But since then the growth has slowed and sometimes reversed due to emigration. Besides that, there are obstacles to overcome. People often associate Christianity with the West, fearing imposed foreign religions. They also have the prevalent example of Russian Orthodoxy—a religion for Russians—in their midst, rather than a robust gospel that crosses borders into their own language and culture. And in the meantime, the resurgence of Islam and widespread ancestor worship and occultism continue to pervade the culture.

 

“The ground is very hard in Central Asia—it’s often overlooked,” explains a Pioneer. “We want to see people continue to pray and give and come to Central Asia."

 

Take a look at this photo essay (or our first photo essay in this project) shot in the Middle Ground of Central Asia. Consider whether you are willing to go to one of the many teams that are recruiting new members or give to a project that is directly affecting the lives of Central Asians.

What a Stove Can Do
What a Stove Can Do

It was her time. The baby was coming. She entered the 3-room medical clinic, sheltered only by the mud walls and the thatched roof. Through a small window provided light, the missing panes of glass left her exposed in the frigid breeze.

 

In a nearby schoolhouse, students were learning to read while the same icy wind blew in through their small window. Each of them wore jackets, boots, hats, gloves and scarves to stave off the shivers that attack at an elevation of 9000 feet.

 

In this area of Central Asia, we experience winter temperatures eight months of the year. But the people and their communities are poor, leaving women to deliver their babies, children to learn and doctors and teachers to work in the extreme cold.

 

That’s why God moved us to start a ministry of compassion—manufacturing and installing heating stoves—in mountain villages. People struggle in the cold. A small heating stove can help doctors and nurses do their jobs in a mountain clinic. It can give their patients comfort. A classroom with heat helps rural teachers capture the attention of their students. Providing heat for their bodies is an avenue for providing gospel warmth for their souls. That’s what a stove can do.

 

After we installed one of our stoves, a man invited us to his home to share a meal. During that time together, we talked to him and his family about Jesus and the amazing gift He offers all mankind. Before leaving, we asked if we could pray for them. This man opened up about the addiction and pain in his life. And so we prayed. A month later he invited us back to his home to share that he had been sober for several weeks. He invited us back to share more words of life.

 

In another village we met a Soviet era doctor facing a health crisis. He had a cyst on his brain and was scheduled for a surgery to remove it. He told us there was little chance he would survive the procedure. He allowed us to pray for him. Only a few weeks later we got word that he had survived and was listening to the audio Bible we gave him as he recovered in a hospital bed.

 

Would you pray for us as God provides these opportunities while we work? And would you pray about contributing to the cost of making and installing these stoves throughout this part of Central Asia? Learn more here.

Photo Essay – Middle Ground
Photo Essay – Middle Ground

Two thousand years ago, Central Asia was the world's hub of activity and modernity. People passed through Central Asia with their goods, stories, philosophies, religions and diseases on the network of trade routes called the Silk Road. And it has known its share of power struggles and conflict with Genghis Khan of the Mongols, Peter the Great and the Russians, and even more recently the Soviet Union. Now in this modern age, Central Asia is a still a crossroads between ancient and modern, East and West, Europe and Asia, Christendom and the world of Islam.


“Crossroads are often places that are trodden down because people are in a hurry to get through to another place,” explains one Pioneer. “And even though the ground is very hard in Central Asia, it’s often overlooked.”  

That overlooking and general lack of knowledge about this region, cause one Pioneer to call it the “black hole of missions.” Take a moment to see the people and sites of this region by viewing the slideshow on the right.

Rob Goes to Central Asia
Rob Goes to Central Asia

Central Asia is at the heart of the Asian continent, stretching from China in the east to the Caspian Sea in the west and from Russia in the north to Afghanistan in the south. It is an area of the world that is unfamiliar to many, both inside and outside of the Church.


We decided to send Rob–an Orlando native, musician and friend of Pioneers–to see how God is moving in this ethnically and culturally diverse region of the world. Follow along as he hears the stories of the people that the Father is drawing to Himself.

See parts II, III and IV. Or visit MiddleGround to see more stories and photos about what God is doing in this region.

One Body, Two Continents
One Body, Two Continents

Brahim* arrived at our church visibly exhausted from trying to find help for his family. He saw “Jesus is the Light” written in Arabic on the wall of the church and said to himself, I have been searching for this light!

 

A local believer accompanied him to the underground, windowless apartment Brahim and his family shared with his brother’s family. Brahim’s brother Hassan*, a man paralyzed from the waist down due to injuries he received while imprisoned in Syria, lay there when they arrived. Their living conditions seemed dire. So a group of Arab Christians and Pioneers took action. They collected food, mattresses, blankets, a heater and a gas bottle for cooking. They also began to share the Good News about Jesus.

 

A few weeks later, Brahim came to church, asking them to pray for Hassan’s healing. The local pastor led our congregation in prayer. Immediately, Brahim’s phone rang. It was Hassan calling. “I feel an incredible fire in my legs!” he yelled. That night, God restored partial feeling and movement. Eventually, he started using crutches. That healing opened Hassan’s heart to the gospel, and we started hosting regular Bible-study for several families in their home. As a result, Hassan put his faith in Christ.

 

"I tell everyone who walks through my door what Jesus did for me!"  

 

Though his wife remained closed to the gospel, we continued praying for the family and following up with Hassan. But one day we lost all contact with him.

 

Several months later I received a call from Hassan. He said, "I'm in Canada!" They received an offer to immigrate quickly and left before telling their friends. But it has been difficult because they don’t speak English.

 

“Over the last four years,” Hassan explained, “it has been the churches who have helped us.” He noticed that there are four churches in his neighborhood. “Do you know if any of these churches might be able to help?"

 

As it turns out, there happens to be an Arabic-speaking church nearby, and we have friends living there who visit them and help with practical needs. The whole family attends the worship service in Arabic now. They are filled with joy and gratitude for the way God cares for them through His people on two different continents. It is changing their lives.  

 

We hear a consistent testimony from Syrian Muslims, "It was the church that helped us in our time of greatest need." May they continue to find restoration and salvation in the Middle East, Europe and North America as they experience the love and compassion of Christ’s church.

 

Find out how you can be involved in helping refugees by participating in our #GivingHope campaign, a means to provide practical help with food packages, blankets and trauma counseling.

 

* These names have been changed.

Worse than Dogs and Pigs
Worse than Dogs and Pigs

Putra* awoke in the hospital to a note tucked in his Bible, the last communication he would have with his parents…

 

We would rather raise dogs and pigs than call you our son.

 

Putra’s parents enrolled him in an Islamic school at a young age and put him through the Islamic equivalent of a seminary because they were conservative Muslims. Putra became everything his parents wanted him to be—fasting, praying, making pilgrimage to Mecca.

 

But during his time in university, strange things began to happen to Putra. He applied for a driver’s license, only to receive his card and find his occupation listed as “Protestant Minister”—a mistake that infuriated his father. Then Putra began to hear voices in his head while performing his prayers. They would repeat the numbers 14 and 6. He used them to play the lottery, winning $2,000. But then the numbers were accompanied with an indecipherable phrase, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And finally, he began to bleed from every orifice in his body, especially his ears, But specialists couldn’t find anything wrong with him.

 

One day, with uncharacteristic curiosity, he walked into a church service to listen. That morning, the pastor preached on John 14:6, the number and verse he was unable to get out of his head. When the service ended, Putra insisted that he needed to be baptized immediately.

 

Only a week later he survived a terrible car accident. Among his personal effects was a new Bible. When his parents found it while he lay unconscious in the hospital bed, they wrote the note, disowning him and comparing him to dogs and pigs—animals of shame and dishonor in Muslim culture. With his grief, he also began to worry about how he would pay for the hospital bill, only to find out later that his debt had been paid in full.

 

He did go home after being discharged, but found his parents had burned everything he owned. He would have to start again, but with his good Father on his side. He decided to move to an island with a larger Christian population. He went to book passage on a ship and realized he couldn’t afford the ticket. Noticing the ticket agent had a Christian name, Putra showed him his driver’s license.

 

“I am a servant of God. Is there anything you can do for me?" he asked.

 

The ticket agent smiled and handed him a ticket for a VIP room. But It came with a glitch. The ticketing agent announced to the other passengers that Putra would be delivering a sermon during their voyage. Putra had to confess and share his predicament. One compassionate woman took him under her wing and provided a place for him to stay on the island until he was able to get on his feet.

 

In much the same way, after a few years of growing in his life with Christ, God provided a way for Putra to go to seminary for training. Now he is a friend and colleague to Pioneers in Southeast Asia. Though finding Christian community was a relief, he realizes he is meant to launch back into the community he came from to give a gospel lifeline to other Muslims. Though he wants to share Jesus, he's overwhelmed and probably a little scared.

 

The long-term Pioneers team is trying to figure out what it means to train, encourage and assist a team of local Christians who were formerly Muslim—including Putra—as they begin to plant churches. They are praying to start four new fellowships of local believers in the next few months. Will you join them in this prayer?

 

Would you invest a few minutes to pray for Muslims know Jesus? Consider joining us this Ramadan (the Muslim month of fasting) to pray for Muslims to encounter Jesus. Simply sign up to receive daily prayer e-mails. It will take you a minute to read and another to pray.

 

* This name has been changed.

Of Donuts and Atom Bombs
Of Donuts and Atom Bombs

Towards the end of World War II, U.S. forces dropped two atom bombs. One fell on Hiroshima, Japan. This summer is the 71st anniversary of that day, and last month President Barack Obama became the first President of the U.S. to visit the city. The damage was extensive, and the death toll was high, but the façade of the city does not give evidence to the mark left on the psyche of its people.

A Pioneers team of Caucasians and Asians work there in the city. Though Hiroshima is known as the “city of peace,” and the people consider themselves ambassadors of world peace, this Pioneers team is trying to introduce people to an everlasting source of peace, one donut at a time.

Holy Ground
Holy Ground

A year ago we came to the village because of our friend Anna, a new believer from the semi-nomadic people group we work with. Her father was a “big man” in the area, with nine wives and most of the cattle in the area. He asked our team to come because they wanted “prayers” in their village. We recognized that he was a person of peace. In his enthusiasm, Anna’s father mobilized 300 people to attend our first meeting. They greeted us with singing and dancing and ushered us to a spot under a big tree.

 

We started by setting the stage for all the stories that would be told in the coming months. But their response was troubling. The people were not interested in the things of God, but rather in the things of foreigners. I had to tell them that we were only offering God’s stories.

 

The next week, no one was waiting for us. We entered to greet people and invite them to come hear the stories. A few came, and it was with these few that we began our year-long journey through the Bible.
 Each week was a struggle. While the other villages seemed open to the things of the Lord, they remained hard-hearted.

 


Finally, we reached the climax of the stories of Christ. It was time to give the gospel presentation. The day of our presentation was hot, well over a hundred degrees. Soon after we began to share, clouds that had been gathering above us released a downpour. Everyone–men, women and children–ran to the small schoolroom with half walls and a metal roof. God had gathered 130 people in a place where our average attendance had totaled five adults and twenty children over the last year. Now the only problem now was that no one could hear due to the pounding rain on the metal roof.

 

We decided to sing and play the drum. But the longer the rain continued, the more troubled my soul became. We were in the midst of a spiritual battle. After forty minutes of singing and praying, the Holy Spirit nudged my heart to pray boldly, allowing the people to see and experience the power of the living God who answers prayer. My heart pounded as I stopped the singing and prayed loudly for about five minutes.

 

The rain quieted to a drizzle, and my teammate stepped forward to share the message as the people listened with rapt attention. I felt the Lord tell me to take off my shoes on this holy ground. As I stood barefoot on the grimy floor. I had a glorious though momentary vision of these people worshipping the Lord after he delivers them from Satan’s captivity. One day this would be holy ground upon which the Lord builds His church.

 

That day, only two women gave their hearts to Jesus. I was sad, but the Lord chastened me. Heaven rejoices when one sinner repents. I glanced down at my still-bare toes and remembered Moses and how long it took to deliver Israel from slavery. I looked back at these two women and rejoiced as the downpour resumed. The Lord gave us the time we needed. And like the flood that came that day, God will flood this land with truth—a land that has been soaked with the blood of animal sacrifices, of traditional belief systems and of fear and power. It starts with these two women.

 

The following week we returned to the village. One of the women shared her testimony and spoke of God’s goodness to her. It’s only the beginning. Please pray that the hardness of heart we have encountered would soften by the power of the Holy Spirit so that the seeds being planted will grow into a harvest.

If you're interested in working with Pioneers in Sub-Saharan Africa, e-mail us at go@pioneers.org.


Who Will Listen?
Who Will Listen?

I didn’t know if I could survive the trauma and stress.

 

It was 2010, and I was living in North Africa. One man in Tunisia burned himself alive to protest the unemployment rate. From there, unrest spread like wildfire in in the Arab world. Young and old took to the streets in protest of injustice, and violence often accompanied their efforts.

 

I was working in the region at that time, and had been for many years. My relatively safe and happy existence there turned scary. Rage and unrest came in waves of protest and riot. The American embassy kept us updated about safety protocols. The volatile environment and surveillance kept us from freely sharing the gospel and gathering for worship. The burden grew as the days became weeks and then months. Before I knew it, I had lived under the constant stress for more than a year. It affected my work and relationships with local people—nearly putting an end to it all. The people giving me wise counsel told me it was time to take a long rest outside region. Soon after, I arrived in the arms of a family and an organization that wanted to help me recover and get counseling. I was so fortunate.

 

But Syrian Refugees have not been so fortunate. They leave home, country, family, financial stability and even their ability to work and communicate. Who is there to welcome them when they arrive? Who can listen and give them counsel? Who is there to tell them the truth about the Jesus who loves them?

 

That’s why I’m so excited about Pioneers’ initiative to raise funds to provide trauma counseling for Syrian refugees—like the counseling I went through several years ago.

 

One Pioneer working in a refugee camp writes, “This week we visited a building full of Syrians all from the same extended family. The needs were endless. One woman had just lost a baby in the 8th month. The other women were all telling her to not cry and to get over it. I was able to pray with her and to talk with all of the women about the importance of grieving all of our losses—tears are not a sign of weakness. One man without legs and heard story after story of the constant trauma the rest of their family was enduring in Syria and how it affects them day to day as they listen [by phone]. An elderly granny was caring for her two grandchildren. The father had been killed in a bombing, the mother's had been forced to remarry and leave her children. The 3-year old boy had been terribly injured in the bombing that took his father. He is in constant pain, emotionally and physically. The granny was desperate for physical and emotional support. It is in these homes and situations that we are able to offer one-on-one lay counsel and support.”

 

Just like I did, they need people to help them process what they have experienced. Though they do not have the financial or human resources to get counseling in their own language with people who understand their culture, we can help them get it.

 

Click here to see the video and find out how you can be part of this effort to offer real help and hope to Syrian refugees.
#GivingHope
#GivingHope
A war continues to rage in the Middle East and leave people in its wake. They are without recourse or resource. But today, in honor of Pioneers 37th birthday, we are doing something new to give them real help and hope. 

See how you can help us offer practical help by clicking here.
Are We Crazy?
Are We Crazy?

Over a decade ago, when Peter and his family arrived in their Middle Eastern host country, there were only a handful of disjointed believers. Through the years, he watched the country devolve into chaos, violence, corruption and increasing persecution—and even targeting—of Christians. Even though one of his friends and co-laborers was killed for being a Christian in that volatile nation, Peter pressed on in faith, sowing seeds of the gospel in a land gripped by radical Islam.

 

Early in his service there, he was amazed by the prayer request of his friend—a former Muslim who was also a partner in evangelism and church planting. Rather than asking Peter to pray for safety from the bombs regularly hitting their city, he asked him to pray that the local Christians would serve and love each other. In the ten years of his service in the Arab world, Peter saw God connect that disjointed community of believers in answer to that prayer. Now they carry a vision for their country and pray to love each other as Jesus loved. And the roots of the church in this Arab country have spread, partly as a result of Peter’s faithful witness.

 

Since then, Peter and his family had to leave because it simply became too dangerous to stay. Critical security training and assessments provided by Pioneers allowed Peter and his family to enter a difficult place and serve for many years and then know when to leave. Peter’s family needed not only security training but also something we at Pioneers call member care. It involves debriefing, counseling and coaching to help Pioneers families process difficult and stressful incidents and transitions that result from cross-cultural ministry.

 

Peter and his family, and others like them, aren’t crazy to follow God’s lead into countries that are hostile to the gospel message. They know there are serious hazards to consider. But they also have the confidence of being aware of and prepared for dangerous situations they may encounter. And there is comfort in the fact that they have member care professionals who can help them walk through the challenges and hardships they face.

 

This April and May, we need your help and support to continue providing security training and member care for Pioneers on the field. It’s part of our Love Moves campaign for 2016. Please visit www.Pioneers.org/LoveMoves to find out more about the need and how security training and member care help Pioneers missionaries serve safely in over 50 hostile countries.
Mountains Moved
Mountains Moved

The Hindu god, Shiva, is regarded as the guardian deity of mountainous Nepal, home to eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest. More than 99% of the Nepalese do not follow the One who spoke their peaks into existence.

Dreams and Stolen Gospels
Dreams and Stolen Gospels

She felt dizzy and weak, having been unable to keep food down for over a week. Would Donnie* and Danielle fire her because she was too sick to return to her work as a housekeeper in their home? Nurul worried that she was dying.

 

Out of the blue, Nurul received a phone call from a Christian woman who followed Jesus after He brought her out of a coma. She told Nurul that she would pray for Jesus to heal her and give her a dream of Himself.

 

Fearing for her family’s livelihood and her own life, Nurul lay on her bed and began to pray, “Isa al-Masih (Jesus the Messiah), if you are really King of the world, would You heal me like You healed my friend? I am so sick, and I can't take care of my family. Come heal me.”

 

Then she slept.

 

A man in white shook her from her sleep, saying, “Nurul, get up now. Get up and eat. You are well.”

 

“What should I eat?” she asked him.

 

“Eat whatever you want,” he continued. “You are well. Eat now.”

 

She asked her son who had been napping beside her if he had seen the man, but he had no idea what she was talking about.

 

Her stomach began to growl with hunger "like a pregnant woman." She ran to the street to buy food.

 

When her husband, Eko, came home, he said, "You look so beautiful! What happened?" She told him about her dream. He fell to his knees and wept, thanking Isa al-Masih for restoring her health.

 

After she told Donnie and Danielle her story, Donnie asked her, "Now what?"

 

"We believe.” She hesitated. “Actually, my husband has been reading about Isa al-Masih for the last month.”

 

Donnie and Danielle were surprised but delighted to hear her explanation. Eko had been helping them on occasion as a handyman in their home. One day a few months ago while working in their home office, he found several copies of Luke in his own language. While no one was looking, he stole a copy to read for himself. God’s Word and Jesus’s appearance to Nurul brought them to faith in Jesus.

 

 

Donnie and Danielle are Pioneers who work in Southeast Asia as church planters, seeking to share the gospel and build new gatherings of seekers and Christians. Please pray for Donnie and Danielle as they help this couple grow in their new faith. Ask God to help Eko and Nurul have the courage to share their story and faith in Jesus with other family members and neighbors.

 

Are you interested in crossing cultures to tell people who have never heard about Jesus? Consider a conversation with one of our mission mentors. They are happy to hear your story and walk with you as God leads. E-mail them at go@pioneers.org.

 

*The names in this story have been changed.

Done & Dusted
Done & Dusted
It was over–three tough years of sharing the gospel with skaters in an urban center of Southeast Asia. He had new plans and a new place to live and work, but God called him back. And it was the best decision he’s ever made.

What kinds of specialized skills do you have that could be used to share Christ? If you want to talk it over with someone, contact us at go@pioneers.org.

To read more about this story, click here.
A Tale of Freedom
A Tale of Freedom

Once there was a woman who lived her whole life under one religion. To her it seemed more of a gradual process than a choosing. But one day she began to have headaches and hear the dark voice of a spirit. Sometimes it made her do and say things she didn’t want to do and made it hard for her to love people she wanted to care about.

 
The woman had a husband and some children. But one of her sons was sensitive to the dark spirit, refusing to let his mother kiss him or even come near him for 20 years. One day, this woman, sad and lonely, heard a story from her niece about God. It was unlike any story she had ever heard—a God who gives deep, fulfilling rest to those who follow Him. She hungered for this God and stories about Him.

 

So, her niece invited her to visit the city to hear more. She went, bringing some people from her family to hear the story, too. That visit was so good that she went again and again throughout the summer. During that time, the brothers and sisters who follow this God in that place prayed continually for that dark spirit to leave her alone. They prayed for God to work by His power in and through her. They prayed for her to walk in freedom. God answered their prayers.

 

Then, one day in autumn, she heard about a God-follower in her own small town. She prayed to find him, and soon afterward, she and her family met him in the street. She walked right up to him and said, "Excuse me, sir, are you an English teacher?" "Yes," he replied. "Oh good,” she said, “but we don't really want lessons. We are like-minded and need to talk!" You see, this woman didn’t know that brothers and sisters who follow this God in a faraway land had been praying for two years so that God would send new brothers and sisters to this teacher-brother in the streets.

 

This woman grew close to the teacher-brother and his wife. They invited her to fellowship and worship this God with other brothers and sisters in her little town. But something happened. During those meetings, the evil spirit came back to bother her. One day as she worshipped with them, the dark spirit took control of her body.  She couldn't talk or move. The brothers and sisters began to pray, "Please, Jesus!  Bring your freedom to her!  Show her your power!  Help her to choose you!"  And other brothers and sisters around in faraway lands began to pray for her, too.

 

When she was able to speak, these brothers and sisters reminded her of her former choice to follow the other religion. They told her about the importance of choosing the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings, by making an outward sign of obedience to Him. She understood what He was asking her to do. But then, the dark spirit seized her again, preventing her from crying out, "Jesus!  Help me!" Finally, after many brothers and sisters struggled in prayer for her, this woman put her faith in Christ. She stood up, grabbed her headscarf and threw it across the room, saying, "I choose you, Jesus! Once and for all!" She was so happy that she ran around, hugging everyone—brothers and sisters alike!

 

When this woman went home, her son said, "Mom, something is really different about you." And this same son, who wouldn’t even come near her for 20 years, kissed her. Soon after, he told her, "Mom, I am not just your son anymore. Now, I am also your brother!"  

 

As is evidenced by this story, Jesus is in the business of setting captives free—just as He set this North African Muslim woman free from the dark spirit that tormented her for decades. And we get to participate in the work through our prayers for Pioneers workers and the people they serve around the world. If you would like to be more involved in prayer for brothers and sisters who serve on the front lines, please consider signing up for our weekly prayer e-mail, “Pioneering Prayer.”

A Time to Shout
A Time to Shout
A few weeks ago, a Pioneers worker (who also happens to be a pro-level skater) invited a group of unreached skaters into his home to read the Bible for the first time.

Feel free to let that one sink in a moment.

Rather than lead the lesson as he wanted to do, the worker let the young men find out for themselves what the text said about God’s character, trusting that God would make himself known without his help. Later, he witnessed the group retell the story of creation to a newcomer with incredible depth of understanding and insight. While their enthusiasm was encouraging, progress was slow, and he had yet to see the kind of life-transformation he was praying for. Still the study continued.

Last week, this worker went for a walk around his neighborhood. As he passed a teashop, he heard someone shouting his name. It was the owner of the teashop, a Catholic woman who had befriended the skaters, and she was running towards him. “WHAT DID YOU DO TO THOSE SKATERS,” she yelled, “ALL OF A SUDDEN THEY’VE BECOME SO INTERESTED IN GOD.”

Stunned by her volume as much as her words, he tried to explain that it was God’s doing, not his, but she didn’t seem to hear. “THE SKATERS WHO GO TO YOUR HOUSE ON SUNDAYS, ALL THEY DO IS TALK ABOUT GOD NOW. THEY ALWAYS ASK ME TO READ OUR BIBLE, BUT WE ONLY HAVE ONE, CAN YOU PLEASE GIVE US MORE?” Still fighting the shock of what he was hearing (and how he was hearing it), he assured her he would bring her more Bibles. She continued, “THE SKATERS LOVE THE SUNDAY MEETINGS. THEY LOVE HOW SIMPLE IT IS TO READ THE BIBLE.” Then finally, shouting louder than she ever had, “THEY’VE ALL SUDDENLY CHANGED.” 

Sometimes we get to witness God’s power firsthand, sometimes we only hear whisperings of it, and sometimes a teashop owner shouts it in our ear on the gospel-hungry streets of Asia. Whatever we are hearing, let us take heart and raise a shout of our own, for these sons of His were lost and are being found, they were dead and are coming alive. 

And that is something to shout about.

Pioneers is an organization that has room for people with specialized and unusual skills. Contact us see our page of overseas opportunities at www.Pioneers.org/Go and consider contacting us at go@pioneers.org to talk with someone about how you might fit on a team working among a people group that has little or almost no access to the Good News. 


Beyond the Gate
Beyond the Gate

Rachel* sat cross-legged on the mat outside her front door in the courtyard of their home rubbing petroleum jelly on her feet—part of the procedure for getting ready for an excursion outside her home.

“Make sure your feet are well oiled,” Rachel explains. “You can see the bottoms of my feet have red dye on them. This is called henna.”

Women in her region of North Africa oil their feet to keep them moisturized and take away the ashy dryness that comes with wearing sandals everyday on dusty roads in the desert. Women also believe that henna paste helps to protect the soles of their feet by making them strong.

“About a week ago,” Rachel says, “I got the henna on my feet.”

Women go to a salon or stall in the market to have henna applied. Once the paste is on it takes several hours to dry on the sole of the foot and the toenails so that it leaves a dark brown or orange stain on the skin. While waiting for her henna to dry, she watched a film on her phone and struck up a conversation with two other women in the shop.

“I was watching The Jesus Film, and she asked me if she could see,” Rachel continues. “I just said a short prayer that she would keep [watching]…I couldn’t believe it. She sat there for at least 20 minutes. She questioned me, ‘Is this Jesus or Joseph?’ I said, ‘No, this is Jesus.’ And she followed with, ‘Interesting.’ It was the part where Mary Magdalene washed Jesus’ feet.”

The actress who plays Mary Magdalene in the film wears no head covering. In North African culture, that detail makes it apparent that Mary Magdalene is not a conservative woman.

“We really praise God for the opportunity of visiting [local women] and putting on the normal items,” she says while pointing to the Vaseline, henna, perfume and the scarf covering her head. “All those little trips outside of your gate are opportunities that the Holy Spirit might use to trigger a conversation.”

Pray for Rachel and many other Pioneers like her who spend their days in the company of men and women who may be hearing the Good News about Jesus for the first time.

Pray that this opportunity to watch The Jesus Film would bear fruit in the lives of those women in the henna shop.

If you’re interested in making inroads for the gospel message with people who are isolated from it, consider contacting one of our Mission Mentors by sending an e-mail to go@Pioneers.org. They will be happy to listen to your story and help you see where God might be leading you. 

* This name has been changed.

One Boat: One Journey
One Boat: One Journey
One area of Southeast Asia is rugged and beautiful – it’s pioneer country. Hear from two Pioneers in this video who are making the wild west their home and bringing the light of the kingdom into their community.

If you're interested in making a life in the wild west, contact us at go@pioneers.org.
Venture
Venture
Venture is a mission experience up to one year designed to equip participants with the knowledge and experience necessary to see what the Lord has next for them. Venture trips are tailor-fit to each participant by pairing the Venturer's skills and needs of the long-term team. Go to pioneers.org/venture.