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Everyone Makes Mistakes
Everyone Makes Mistakes

In our early days in another culture, we may learn culture and language more through our missteps than our triumphs. We asked Pioneers around the world what cultural blunders they’ve made that are now seared in their minds. 

Those Subtleties of Language

Many shared mistakes related to language which took them into embarrassing topics:

One reported that in his first years on the field, a taxi driver repeatedly offered him the company of an attractive young lady. “I finally gathered my newly acquired language to say, ‘I don’t want that lady because the woman I love is my wife.’” At least that’s what he thought he said. What he actually said was “…the woman I love is your wife.” The man was stunned. Oops!

Another shared, “As my hostess urged me to take more food, I used my limited language to communicate, ‘No thank you. I am so constipated. Praise God.’” Uh oh! “They responded first with silence, then raucous laughter. Eventually they were able to help me understand my mistake.” (Wonder if that explanation was as awkward as the initial mistake?)

A Pioneer in North Africa explained that in the local dialect, the words for eat and speak are very similar. “Early on at the gym I told people I wanted to only eat [North Africans].”

Manners, Manners, Manners

Learning to appreciate and navigate new cultures is at least as important as learning language, and many Pioneers remember best the lessons they learned by doing—or almost doing—something culturally offensive:

A Pioneer on his first visit to the Arab world had to use the bathroom and saw what he believed was the local equivalent of a urinal. At the last minute he saw and opted to enter a stall with a more familiar-looking toilet. Only later did he learn he’d nearly desecrated what was really an area for ceremonial washing before prayer!

Another Pioneer, serving in an area that had a national church, joined them for Christmas caroling. He was asked to play the part of Father Christmas and distribute candy to the children. “Everyone tries to guess who is in the costume,” he explained, “So I took great care to cover every inch of skin, took off my American-made watch, wore gloves and put on locally made shoes.” He even refused to speak so his voice wouldn’t give him away. The next morning he was asked if he’d been Father Christmas. The clue? He’d passed out candy with his left hand (an insult in that culture) and seemed to do it with such cheerful ignorance. Since then, he reports, he’s had several last-minute hand-switches to avoid giving offense. 

Guests in a local home, a family with children rushed home when their child threw a tantrum. Only later did they learn polite leave-taking involves a thirty-minute process of making indirect comments and seeking permission to depart. Rather than letting their misstep end this desirable relationship prematurely, however, they sought out the family, confessed their mistake and brought a gift. “Luckily, we’re in a culture of people who are very gracious and expect us to mess everything up because we’re foreigners so they forgave us and kept talking to us.” Whew.

A Story from the Jungle

While most of us don’t like to share our most-embarrassing moments, those who are willing to give others a laugh at their own expense may reap surprising benefits. A Pioneer serving in South America finds that the story of one of her early blunders is a good way to affirm the ways of her host community and endear her to the local women.

“The most culturally significant food in the jungle is masato, or as I like to call it, spit juice. Women make it by mashing up yuca (cassava), chewing the yuca, spitting it back out, leaving it a few days to ferment and then mixing it with water,” she explains. 

“I’ve already drunk my fair share of saliva, but when I got my first opportunity to make masato with the women, I knew that I had two options. I could feel deeply grossed out, or I could feel deeply honored that they were inviting me into one of their most treasured activities, one that they knew outsiders often judged.”

This Pioneer was in for a surprise, though: 

“Once I started chewing the yuca, I discovered that it had the exact consistency of mashed potatoes, and it was so good that I chewed it up and swallowed it right down! Thankfully, the women burst out laughing, because they had never seen anyone swallow the mashed yuca instead of spitting it out.

“My partner, meanwhile, was doing a great job of not swallowing, but her spitting skills left something to be desired. She went back and forth between awkwardly dribbling her yuca down her chin and launching it onto the wrist of the hostess.” 

Today, she loves to tell this story: “The funny thing is that these mistakes might have been the best thing to happen to our relationships with the women. They couldn’t stop laughing at our blunders, and ever since then, this has become my go-to story with indigenous women. Between the surprise of hearing that foreigners made masato and the comedic relief of our blunders, nothing loosens up a quiet woman’s shyness faster than telling her that you love chewing mashed yuca so much, you swallow it all straight down.”

When God Says Go... But Not Yet

You’re thinking about a life overseas. Maybe you feel ready to sign up and get started. But God Himself seems to slow you down. Then what?

 

In this article, a would-be missionary describes what God is doing in her life in the season between committing to missions and moving overseas (along with tips on what to do while you wait).


I’ve heard the stories of those who have known from the age of seven that they wanted to be a missionary. That was not my story. Those were not my plans. In fact, becoming a missionary was the last thing I wanted to do.

 

When during my last year of college, the Lord led me to an eight-week mission trip with Pioneers, I trusted His promptings and was incredibly excited about the opportunity. Yet I hoped that this wasn’t a stepping stone to Him calling me long-term.

 

Fast forward one year. God had used that eight-week summer trip to change my heart and view of my role in His purposes. My life trajectory was entirely altered. I felt, without a doubt, that He was calling me to spend my life advancing His kingdom and serving Him among the unreached.

 

That was my new plan. I was in the process of officially joining Pioneers with the intention of moving overseas.

 

But the world of missions was still so new to me. I still had much to learn and room to grow. I didn’t have a clear peace about making the next big step. God spoke to me through the wisdom and advice of those who have gone before me:

 

“It’s not a race to get overseas.”

“There is wisdom in preparation.”

“Recruiting others before going yourself is a great investment of time.”

 

I felt God saying go but also not yet. I didn’t quite know what to do with that.

 

What Jesus has taught me since then could be summarized as come and die. I had to die to the plans that I make for myself. I surrendered an opportunity to advance my career in the field I’d majored in; I surrendered my vision for ministry overseas.

 

In the meantime, I learned ways I could have a multiplying impact by sending many workers to unreached people groups as a mission mobilizer. That’s exactly what the Lord had for me next.

 

It’s been a great way for me to invest my time wisely. I’m learning so much about the world of missions and the work of teams around the world. I’m surrounded by a community that helps me to maintain that vision and encourages my development towards cross-cultural service.

 

More importantly, I’m learning that as a follower of Christ, I can trust the Lord when He changes the plan. I can delight in what He has for me. “Come and die” comes with a promise—a promise of new life in Him.

 

Practical Steps

You don’t need to have your plane ticket in hand to be making progress. Whether God calls you to go tomorrow or in five years, spend your time now working to advance His Kingdom and prepare for what He has next.

Pray for the nations of the world, especially those least reached by the gospel. Start by downloading the Operation World app to your phone.

Partner with missionaries by supporting them in prayer and giving. The best way may be to join the mission efforts of your church.

Befriend internationals: students, immigrants, or refugees. Ask others to help you get connected with local ministries serving them.

College-aged? Go to Urbana or the Cross Conference. You won’t regret it. We’ll be there, too!

Those of any age can work on personal development through counseling or discipleship. Check out options like Sonship. It's a great study about identity in Christ which you can complete with a mentor.

Be a mobilizer. With your church, a mission organization or in your day-to-day life, cast vision for the need to go to the nations.

 

Courtney works on Pioneers-USA’s mobilization team as she prepares for serving overseas.

 

Email us at GO@pioneers.org to talk to start the conversation with one of our dedicated mission mentors whose heart is to listen to your story, help you discern where God is leading you and pray with you in your next steps.

Read more articles from our Breaking Barriers series.

Little Red Radios - Part 3
Little Red Radios - Part 3
Finding community can be tricky, even in Christian circles. But short-term groups who visit the team in Bolivia often find a rich sense of belonging. While distributing audio gospels alongside Greg and Alex, they experience the love and care of the team and the Quechua people. Many come away feeling that God has intricately woven them into His story in the mountains of Bolivia.

Watch this video on right, the third in our Little Red Radios video series (Part 1 or Part 2), or see more articles and photo essays from Bolivia. And if you're interested in learning more about this team and thier short-term opportunities email us at updates@pioneers.org.
Serving Single

Friends are settling down, buying houses, and starting families. You? Your path take you to the ends of the earth—alone. Sound scary? Crazy?

In this article, part of a series discussing barriers to serving in mission, a former missionary shares what she discovered about singleness and the hidden benefits it may offer those serving cross-culturally.

Island Encounters
Island Encounters

As a young man in love with the sea, Ray Pittman found his life threatened by pirates, shipwrecks, mysterious invaders and sharks in the ocean in the dark of night. As a missionary kid, Ray wrestled with his faith. He shares these stories in his new book, When the Sharks Come.

Recently we caught up with Ray and his wife Laura for their perspective on serving God in the South Seas.


Q: Ray, how is ministry the same as when you were a missionary kid?

My grandfather, a pioneer with Wycliffe, always emphasized and modeled the importance of relationships over personal agenda. I never saw him lose his composure over corruption or inefficiency or incompetence. He always saw each individual he was dealing with as a precious person in the eyes of God. That was the greatest lesson he taught me. It has served my family well for three generations.

Q: What do you appreciate about your Fijian friends and teammates?

Life in the South Seas is all about relationships. It’s the thing we love the most. Our local friends have become father, mother, sister, brother, etc. in real, tangible ways.

I love the way they use stories to gently guide without having to be confrontational and how they are gracious and willing to make personal sacrifices for the sake of harmonious relationships rather than having to be “right” about something or prove themselves. They live out “laying your life down for a friend” better than anyone I’ve ever seen.

Q: You’ve hosted many visitors with your ministry. But that’s a lot of work for you! Why do you do it?

In the South Pacific, to have visitors is an honor and a blessing! We don’t see it as work. Visitors bring energy, enthusiasm and resources that help propel our ministry forward. They also bring encouragement, friendship and love.

Probably the greatest fruit that we get to see from our ministry is in the lives of our visitors and participants. I don’t know what it is about being here, but it really changes people’s perspectives, and many times, even the very course of their lives.

Q: How have you seen God working in and through them?

I’ve seen people change so much I wanted to give them a new name. We’ve had parents share how thankful they were for the transformation they’ve seen in their kids. It’s not unusual to have someone return two or three times because they feel like they are part of the family and have found a sense of belonging here.

As far as what God does through them here, they really help us expand our influence by building relationships with the community and becoming friends with the people we work with… And the icing on the cake is when they go on to serve the Lord full time.

Q: What words of exhortation do you have for the American Church?

We all need to share in the responsibility and command to take the gospel around the world. Missionaries are your soldiers that you’re sending out. Resource, encourage, support and reinforce them.

Q: What characteristics do you most appreciate in a teammate or visitor?

I want to work with people who are sponges and learners... Some of the best teammates we have had were the least qualified from a resume perspective but were the best to work with because they were willing to be taught and learn from others.

Ray and his team are also looking for new teammates. Interested? See their video and learn more.

Photo Essay - Bolivia #2
Photo Essay - Bolivia #2
In April of 2017, a group of short-term Canadian workers traveled to Bolivia with their suitcases stuffed full of little red radios. They varied in age, background and careers, including a nuclear plant worker, a contractor, a government worker and a lumberjack, to name a few. Yet, they all found a common purpose in helping to transport and distribute radio Bibles to the Quechua people high in the mountains of Bolivia.

Greg and Alex are a father-son team from Canada. In the last decade they, along with many short-term workers, have distributed more than 50,000 little red radios.

Englarge the photo box on the right to view the photo essay.

J.A. Boyle is Visual Media Strategist for Pioneers-USA. He recently traveled to Bolivia to see what God is doing through the work of a father-son-church-planting team.

To learn more about this audio gospel project in Bolivia, watch this video or see the photos from our first Bolivia photo essay.
More to Lose
More to Lose

God gives great gifts to His kids. Like marriage. Children. Houses. Cash. When you realize one of these has become an idol, what then? In this article, part of a series discussing barriers to serving in mission, a mission mobilizer writes about the struggle to trust God with her marriage.

 

The summer before my sophomore year of college, shortly after I became a believer, I had so much zeal and love for Jesus that I couldn’t think of anything better to do with my life than take the good news to those who have no chance to hear it. I counted the cost of following Christ to the ends of the earth and was eager to go to the field soon after graduation.

 

I also deeply desired to be married and take this adventure with a godly husband by my side, one who desired to make Jesus known among the nations. God provided. We were married in October of our senior year. We were ready to serve the Lord—together!

 

And then, suddenly, I wasn’t. Not anymore. 

 

Worrisome thoughts I hadn’t previously considered now planted seeds of doubt in my heart.

 

  • What if something happened to one of us when we were living overseas?
  • What good things at home might we miss out on if we went to the field?

 

The gift of our marriage became an idol I clung to and was afraid to lose. I knew God loves to give His children good gifts, but the way I was living my life suggested I actually saw Him as a God who wanted to take away His good gifts and leave me to suffer. My desire to go to the mission field was shaken simply because the cost had gone up. I now had more to lose.

 

The Lord used our marriage to show me that deep down in my heart I was only ever willing to give up so much. I was not as brave or zealous or in awe of God as I thought!

 

But God met me there. In love, He reminded me of His goodness, bringing healing where I didn’t know I needed it. I learned to trust that He really does love to give us good gifts. If He were ever to take them away, He would give us the grace and strength we need.

 

In what area is God asking you to count the cost?

 

Are there gifts from God you might be fearful to give up or afraid He might take away? Let me encourage you: He is always good. He is worthy of it all.

 

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” – Luke 12:32

 

We have a dedicated team of mission mentors whose heart is to listen to your story, help you discern where God is leading you, and pray for you in your next steps. Email us at GO@pioneers.org

 

Recognize yourself in Rachael’s struggle? 

 

…Be encouraged by David Platt on what Jesus is worthy of.

…Listen to John Piper on counting the cost of following Christ.

…Read the Desiring God article, What Would God Say to Your Anxiety?

 

Also, if you missed it, check out the most recent article in this series: Partnership with the Local Church: When Your Sending Church Can No Longer Send

 

Rachael S. and her husband are both working with Pioneers-USA’s mobilization team as they prepare for serving overseas.

Read more articles from our Breaking Barriers series.

Photo Essay - Bolivia #1
Photo Essay - Bolivia #1
In 2004, Greg and Alex, a father-son team working in Bolivia, came across a man on the road who was holding a little broken radio. He pleaded with them, “Fix it, it’s my life!” They helped him get the radio repaired and realize it was tuned to a radio station broadcasting in his native language, Quechua.

Greg and Alex had been searching for a way to share the Gospel with the people of isolated villages cut off from the rest of civilization during the rainy season. They were amazed to find the radios were made in their native Canada. Since then, they raised funds to purchase and distribute radios radios that include a Quechua audio translation of the Bible. In the last 10+ years Greg and Alex, along with many short-term workers, have distributed more than 50,000 little red radios.

Englarge the photo box on the right to view the photo essay.

J.A. Boyle is Visual Media Strategist for Pioneers-USA. He recently traveled to Bolivia to see what God is doing through the work of a father-son-church-planting team.

See more about this project in Bolivia by watching our video or seeing the photos from our second photo essay.
Little Red Radios - Part II
Little Red Radios - Part II
A Pioneer and his father have spent more than a decade taking audio gospels to the Quechua people in the mountains of Bolivia, an area where few know how to read in their mother tongue. Now they've delivered more than 50,000 radios.


Partnership with the Local Church
Partnership with the Local Church
Note: In this article, part of a series from our mobilizers exploring barriers to serving in mission, a former field missionary explores a crucial requirement for serving overseas: a sending church.

Everything was falling into place, or so I thought. I had followed God’s call to serve overseas and begun raising support to join a team working with the unreached. Throughout this process, my home church had been my source of encouragement and support. They prayed for me when I was appointed to an organization, supported me with prayers and finances during my survey trip and were excited about the direction God was leading.

Not long after beginning the support raising process, though, it became apparent that my church would be dissolving and its members would disperse. “God, how can this be happening?” I wondered. I had spent years building community with these people. Starting over seemed impossible. Would a church send someone overseas whom they only met a year or two ago? I felt ill-equipped for this next part of the journey, but knew moving forward, prayerfully, was my only option.

Unexpectedly, the next step took me to a small church that had never sent anyone overseas. After attending and making connections with people for a couple of months, I took another step: I met with the pastor. Then, over a two-year period, I met several times with the church leadership. The more I talked to them about serving overseas, the clearer my focus and intention became.

God used the time I spent engaging my new community about overseas work to confirm and cement the initial call He had placed on my heart. He also used this time to prepare my new church family to send me out. At times the process seemed painfully slow, but God was always at work. Two years and many steps later, I boarded a plane, grateful for the community of this small church now sending me out as their first overseas worker.

Find yourself in a similar situation, for whatever reason? Keep these tips in mind:

1. Stay in touch.

Continue to keep individuals from your previous church involved in your process. Even if you are not attending the same church, they may still be interested in being a part of your journey.

2. Nurture new relationships.

Help your new fellowship connect with the vision God has given you. Build a small group of people in your new fellowship who can track with you in the process and can be your connection to the rest of the community once you are overseas. Ask them to pray and participate in the steps you take towards the field.

3. Serve in the church.

Be willing to get involved in ministries and events in your new church for a season while you are raising support. This will help create more connection between you and the people God has called to join your journey.

4. Make introductions.

Connect your new church leadership with your sending organization, especially if they have a church partnership team or church liaison.

Starting over with a new church can be difficult. You may find it difficult to slow down and take the time to build a sending foundation when you’re itching to get overseas.  But it can also be a great opportunity for God to build a strong sending community around you. Trust your long-term goals to God and be faithful with the next ones He is asking you to take.

See also:

...the article Five Practical Ways to Be a Great Sending Church.

…books like Steve Beirn’s Well Sent: Reimagining the Church’s Missionary-Sending Process.

...resources for churches from Catalyst Services, including their Sending New Missionaries packages.

…a series of Pioneers videos about being a sending church.

And read part 1 in this series, How to Follow Jesus (and Honor Your Father and Mother).

Megan M. is a First Term Consultant on Pioneers-USA’s member development team. She served in Southeast Asia for two years.
Little Red Radios - Part I
Little Red Radios - Part I

A Pioneer and his father have spent more than a decade taking audio gospels to the Quechua people in the mountains of Bolivia, an area where few know how to read in their mother tongue. Now they've delivered more than 50,000 radios.


Take Your Profession to the Unreached
Take Your Profession to the Unreached

Have you ever felt God tugging at your heart to GO and reach the nations? Perhaps one of the things you thought about was, “What about my career?” It used to be that people who felt called to GO left their profession, went to seminary, and raised support from churches.

It’s not like that today. You can take your career and be a part of a church-planting team at the same time as a Global Professional with Pioneers.

Consider Mark. The Lord has given Mark and his family the privilege of serving more than ten years in the Arabian Gulf through Mark’s career as an engineer. He interacts with Arabs and speaks Arabic at work, and he takes advantage of opportunities the Lord provides to build relationships with his colleagues. “We go to lunch. I go camping with these guys outside of work. My work relationships lead to family relationships as my wife and kids interact with the families of colleagues, too.”

One day Mark greeted a new employee and noticed she was sitting in a hard-backed chair, not very comfortable or ergonomic. “What’s the deal with this chair?” he asked. She said her manager didn’t care, but whatever. “‘I care,’ I said, ‘How can I help you?’” Mark knew he could easily get another chair. “‘I tell you what. I’ll give you my chair.’ I tell you, it just struck her, it was an opportunity. It was one of those God moments. She said, ‘You’re one of the most amazing… you’re the best Muslim I know!’ That led to an hour-long conversation about Jesus.”

Mark admits that being a global professional is a crazy life. “You work 40, 50, sometimes 60 hours a week and try to somehow find energy to be with people at night, to spend time with believers, follow up with people who are interested, pray and plan, and also take time for your family. It’s a juggling act.”

“We live as workers in His harvest field, by His grace. It’s a great time to be a harvester. So I urge you to come. Come! We need more workers to labor. Use the skills that God has given you. Join what we’re doing here. It’s all for Him. The Lord has given us skills, and all that is for His glory.

“Come join us. We want you here!”


Read about Global Professionals or contact us to learn more.

Getting a Great Start
Getting a Great Start

You’re starting over in a new culture. Your first year there can set direction for years to come. Looking back, how will you wish you’d spent it? We asked veteran missionaries what advice they’d give new missionaries about how to spend their first months on the field. Here’s what they said.

 

1. Leave your home culture behind.

 

In the long run, staying in touch with your support network back home could prove crucial for staying on the field. So it may seem ironic, but in the earliest days, such efforts can do more to hurt you than to help you. More than one veteran recommends cutting ties with social networking so you can focus on building new relationships in your host country, because it “isn’t just a time hindrance, it’s a heart hindrance to belonging in your new home.”

 

2. Give yourself to language and culture learning.

 

Begin language study immediately and stay focused until you are able to minister in the language of your host people. Then keep going. “If you’re learning a new language in your first year, make it your goal to make 1,000 mistakes each day,” advises one veteran. “Changing my focus from ‘speaking perfectly’ to talking as much as I was able and seeing my mistakes as my assignment brought much less stress, and much more joy to language learning.”

 

“Go all in with language and cultural study!” urge other workers. Live with a local family for a month or more. One family says, “We learned SO many things we couldn't have without our homestay.”

 

When overwhelmed by language and culture, it’s natural to pull back to protect yourself. Resist such urges and replace them with disciplines of curiosity. “Learn skills in observation and question asking. Believe you can learn something from any situation. Pray for a cross-cultural friend you can ask about life and things you see around you.”

 

3. Learn from many mentors.

 

“Concentrate on meeting people at every possible level to learn as much about the culture as you can,” says one veteran, adding, “Gain as many mentors as you can from the local culture and continue to study under mentors your entire career.”

 

“Seek as much advice and as many tools as possible from those who have come before you,” says another Pioneer. This may include written sources as well as people. Ministry training tools (see resources below) that seemed theoretical become rich when you’re putting them into practice.

 

4. Stay emotionally and spiritually healthy.

 

Pressure to advance and unrealistic expectations—yours and those of others—may be inevitable. “Be ready to not be good at anything and allow God to use it as a time to help refine you,” advises one wise veteran.

 

“Life and transition into your field is going to be tough enough without you adding additional pressures or concerns on yourself and your family. Make decisions that are intentional in ensuring the health of you and your family. Find friends and activities that allow you to cope with all of the different trials and struggles that you may face.”

 

Don’t try to do it alone—be faithful to fellowship with Christians. “No matter how busy or crazy things get, carve out time to pray with teammates, fellow believers and family.”

 

“Create a habit of Sabbath rest with brutal intentionality. It never gets easier and you need the worship, rest, and delight that first year to keep yourself focused on Him,” says one veteran.

 

“Keep your relationship with Jesus close; listen to His voice; worship lots (even when you don't feel like it),” adds another. “Ensure that you make time for devotions and time together with God, even when there is not a local fellowship for you to worship with.”

 

5. Take time to get away.

 

Most missionaries find it helpful to have regular times away from their host culture. “During our first year on the field our family made it a priority to take two days off monthly to leave the city (if possible) and stay at a hotel overnight. We’d spend one day having fun together as a family without distractions, and one day meeting in solitude with the Lord (practically that meant each parent spent half a day with our son while the other met alone with the Lord).”

 

“The times we did follow through were some of our best memories from our first year! Our family relationships were blessed… our understanding of the culture and people improved… the silence with the Lord often helped us reflect and redirect plans… and we often had a lot of fun.”

 

See also Before You Go: Five Pre-Field Practices Healthy Missionaries Cultivate and Staying Healthy in Missions.

One Pioneer specifically mentioned Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures: Biblical Foundations and Practical Essentials and 3D Gospel: Ministering in Guilt, Shame, and Fear Cultures, both by Jayson Georges.

Photo Essay - Rohingya
Photo Essay - Rohingya

Whether in the Middle East, Africa or the former Soviet Union, modern-day persecution against Christians often generates news headlines and—rightfully—motivates fellow believers toward concern and action on behalf of those who suffer for following Jesus.

 

But what is the responsibility of Christians to victims of religious persecution who don’t share their faith? The recent trials of the Rohingya (a Muslim people group) have brought this question home.

 

Native to the Rakhine province of Myanmar, the Rohingya have fled persecution in their Buddhist-majority homeland to more than 30 countries around the world. Since September alone, over 600,000 Rohingya refugees have entered neighboring Bangladesh amid fresh violence, leading the UN to consider the Rohingya’s plight “the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.” The legal system in Myanmar does not recognize the ethnic minority as one of the 135 “national races” of the country, which means Rohingya are restricted in their movement and excluded from education and jobs.

 

In addition to legal discrimination, “hundreds of villages have been burned and destroyed recently,” a Pioneer serving in Southeast Asia writes. “Many people have been reported killed and many others have died from drowning and sickness.”

 

Pioneers in Southeast Asia are finding ways to show compassion for this devastated Muslim people group and share the gospel with Rohingya who are spiritually open. However, persecution can cause people to become even more fervent in their faith and cling to their religious and cultural heritage. Spiritual seekers face pressure from their families and communities when they begin questioning Islam or exploring Christianity.

 

Although he has begun reading the Bible, one Rohingya man says, “I believe all that is here, but I am a Muslim; my father, and grandfather were Muslim, so I must stay a Muslim.”

 

Scripture teaches that, “The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9). Pray that the Rohingya will seek refuge in Him.

 

Visit Pray4Ro.com to download a free guide to praying for the Rohingya.

How to Follow Jesus (and Honor your Father and Mother)
How to Follow Jesus (and Honor your Father and Mother)

A couple with four children feels called to live out the gospel overseas among a people group that has never heard of Jesus. They are thrilled to sense this tug from the Holy Spirit and begin to pray with friends for confirmation, seek approval from their church and apply to join a mission agency.

But a phone call to the wife’s parents gets a response of rejection, not validation, withdrawal, not support. They exchange angry words, the call is cut off and a wedge begins driving its way into the relationship.

What should the couple do? Walk away from the vital call they and others believe God has placed on their lives only to appease the parents? Or move forward in sorrow and family disunity?

As you might have guessed, this is my story. For us, the answer wasn’t an easy one. It never is for those who face parental disagreement with a call to missions.


Here, though, are a few steps you can take to honor your parents while not denying a true sense of calling.

1. Seek to understand their perspective.

Your parents will have a sacrifice to make, too. If you are single, parents have to give up time together and closeness. That issue is multiplied if a spouse and grandchildren are involved. In either scenario, allow them the chance to process and grieve the coming loss.

2. Affirm your love and respect for your parents.

Serving God overseas doesn’t mean ending the relationship! As you listen and acknowledge their responses respectfully, it’s possible to demonstrate care and understanding while hopefully building acceptance on their part.

3. Explain what it is you will be doing.

Whether you will be living in a jungle hut or in a city, information can ease their normal fears and possibly generate enthusiasm. Even if your parents are not believers, the work might pique their interest. If they are believers, ask them to pray with you for God’s guidance, which displays appropriate humility on your part.

This issue can be a big challenge, but you can honor your disagreeing parents—even if you still go as we did—by displaying God’s grace and confirming His call through prayer, humility and respect. We at Pioneers would love to help you navigate this obstacle or others you may face as you follow God’s call to serve Him.

We have a dedicated team of mission mentors who want to hear your story, help you discern where God is leading you and pray for you as you take your next steps.

Contact our mobilization department.


Additional Resources

See the article When Family Objects, with ways to honor your parents while following what you believe to be God’s will (The Traveling Team).

Read books like Following Jesus without Dishonoring Your Parents and Parents of Missionaries: How to Thrive and Stay Connected When Your Children and Grandchildren Serve Cross-Culturally.

Check out the Q&A website AskaMissionary.com, which explores questions like What if my parents oppose me becoming a missionary?

Read more articles from our Breaking Barriers series.

This World Is Not My Home
This World Is Not My Home

I exist to bring glory to God through obedient love and faith. I move according to God’s will. I leave my comfort, my culture, and my language to pursue the eternal kingdom to which I belong. 

My feet are transplanted to the sandy soil of Karamoja, Uganda. I balk at this unfamiliar land, a land of thorns and warriors, of semi-nomadic herdsmen, of people steeped in tradition and animistic beliefs. I can’t do this life. My home is a tent. I cook over a fire. I feel overwhelmed one hundred percent of the time. Tears of frustration are spilt before the Lord.

Gently He gathers my tears and takes me to Deuteronomy 1. He is the God who has carried me to this very land. He has fought for me, provided for me and cared for me. Do I reject this land and His beloved people? He is trustworthy and able to fulfill His promise to build His church. He is able to do it without me, yet He has invited me to participate.

I am here Lord, but I don't know what to do.

I cannot run away, turn back or give into discouragement. But how do I enjoy the safe pasture of Psalm 37:3-4 when nothing feels safe, when my body rages with sickness, bullets fly or teammates leave? The safety is in the hand of God Who holds me.

This world is not my home. I dwell in this land, but I enjoy the safe pasture of my heavenly home.

When I came to do this work, I came with expectations of what it would look like. The criteria to measure success were in my hand—simple faith applied through loving obedience and a dependence on God to direct my steps, my thoughts, my ways. 

Faithfulness, the tenacious hope that Jesus is enough.

Years pass and survival is no longer my primary objective. My home moves from tent to thatched hut to brick house. The faces of strangers become the faces of friends. Incomprehensible sounds become a language of love. Customs and culture that once confused become familiar.

I inherited a chicken—no friends of mine—project from the veterinarian who came before me.  Weekly visits to homes to count eggs, inspect squawking birds and sit in dark huts eating foods unfamiliar produced a person of peace. One woman expressed interest in Bible stories, and through my faulty work of translation, I began to share—after a year—with one woman, in one dark hut who cared for a dozen chickens. But God was at work. One day she says, “These stories are good and true, we must share them with others.”

My language moves at an arduous pace. I pray, “God, in my weakness, be my strength.” He brings me four who want work. They begin as translators but become Bible storytellers. Discipleship and prayer grow them from weaklings to bearers of God’s Word. They grow from four to twelve, reaching into new villages. People believe. The church emerges. 

I dig my toes deeper into this sandy soil and praise God for the fruit from this barren land.

How foolish to believe that God’s work is a personal possession. God’s work is eternal, mine is temporary. And the leaving of a place is as important as the coming. His building plan for the Karamojong church included my dwelling in the land for a season (Ecclesiastes 3), but it also includes my leaving. Both are an act of loving obedience.

Fear creeps in, will the work continue after I leave? But fear has no place in faith.

I do not leave the people empty, but with the Word of Truth and the Holy Spirit. He will mature them, guide them and keep them.

When Summer moved to an isolated community in Uganda, she was overwhelmed by the cultural differences and spiritual challenges. Now she leaves Uganda and the Karamajong people she has grown to love. See the photo essay of these faithful disciples on the right.



See also To and From Uganda: Leaving the Work in Capable Hands, which includes a video featuring Summer, her team and the Karamajong people.

To and From Uganda
To and From Uganda

Editor's Note: When Summer moved to an isolated community in Uganda, she was overwhelmed by the cultural differences and spiritual challenges. We captured her journey on film several years ago. Recently we reconnected with Summer for perspective on her experience as she prepares to leave Uganda.

Q: Can you remind us how you got started? 

 

My parents cultivated within me a love of God and a love for the nations. When I was just eight years old I told my best friend, “When I grow up, I want to go to the field.” My friend replied, “What field?” I was incredulous, “the mission field” (duh!). My images of missions were not very realistic, but the calling of God in my life was real.

 

Years later, when I came to Karamoja, Uganda, my romantic ideals were quickly replaced with the harsh realities of living among thorns and warriors. I quickly realized I was ill-equipped to minister to those I came to serve. I had no idea how to do this job.

 

From that place of utter humility, God raised my eyes to seek His face and then He faithfully did the work that was much too difficult for me.

 

Q: How have you seen God at work since then? 

 

  • He raised up a team to serve with me.

 

  • He led us to people of peace who were ready to receive His words of truth.

 

  • He empowered us to build a local Bible storying team.

 

  • Each day He has carried His work forward and is establishing His Church in this land.

 

When I was young, I thought my purpose was missions. It is not. My purpose is to know Christ and to make Him known. I do this through simple acts of love, faith and obedience. 

 

Q: What’s it like to be leaving?

 

After six years, I am leaving Karamoja with mixed joy and sorrow: Joy in seeing that the work of God bears eternal fruit, and that God will continue His work until the day of Christ Jesus. Joy in the love that has blossomed in my heart for the Karamojong. Sorrow that I leave my spiritual children behind. I leave them, however, with the Word of God hidden in their hearts, a Loving Savior, and a Holy Spirit to keep and guard them. There is no better way to leave.



See also This World Is Not My Home, written by Summer about the challenges of moving to, adapting to and leaving Uganda. This article also includes a photo essay with testimonies of the people who will carry on the gospel work.

Testimony from the Edge
Testimony from the Edge

The short-term team was shocked. Their North African, Muslim students actually wanted to hear what they had to say about spiritual matters.

 

“They were initiating the conversations [with us],” said Jane, one of the three young women on an Edge team running summer English camps in North Africa where they use their English lessons to talk about character and raise spiritual questions. After class they can go deeper and talk about Christ. “It wasn’t something we had to draw out of them but something they wanted more of.”

 

One of these ladies, Jane, got an invitation to visit her student’s home to meet the family and learn more about their culture.

 

“Right off the bat she told me that she’s not a Muslim,” Jane remembers. Jane shared that she is a Christian and told the Bible story about the woman caught in adultery. The girl loved Jesus’ gracious response to the woman. Her student said, “He’s the only light I can see in the darkness. I want to follow Him.” Jane stayed up all night answering questions and telling Bible stories. Before she returned to the US at the end of summer, Jane gave the girl a Bible and introduced her to long-term missionaries who are now meeting with her regularly.

 

Jane’s teammate, Kate, told a story of a student complaining that Islam cannot answer her big questions. Kate described moments like that as softball pitches, allowing her to say, “Let me tell you about my God and the hope of Jesus.” They attribute these moments to the fact that the Holy Spirit is working in hearts and to the faithful service of many missionaries who have spent years praying and planting seeds in hope of a future harvest.

 

About Edge

 

Edge is pioneers’ summer mission program designed for college-age participants to get hands-on training and experience with a church-planting team. This year we have 19 teams focused on providing medical care, teaching English, serving refugees, taking adventure tours, building relationships and much more. Last summer, our staff recruited, equipped, trained, sent and debriefed 74 college-age participants and interns for the EDGE.

 

Interested? Or know someone who might be? Visit Pioneers.org/Edge.

Listen to this 11-minute interview in its entirety below.

His First Christmas
His First Christmas

Remember the old chat rooms from the days when the Internet was new? That method of communication is still alive and well in the Arab world, and Pioneers use it every day to talk to Muslims.

 

Internet ads, social media posts and websites draw Arab Muslims who are curious about Christianity. And since the beginning of 2017, our responders have had the privilege of leading 427 to Christ. Many of these will be celebrating Christmas for the first time this year.

 

One of them, Kasim* wrote saying,

 

I am 26 years old. I see light in Christianity and in Jesus, my salvation. The truth is my life is not a peaceful walk; it is full of doubts and things that do not suit me in the Muslim society. I am troubled about religion, the judgement day and many things that bother me ... I saw the movie of Jesus and I was deeply touched by Jesus’ life and sacrifice … So I decided to walk in the path of Jesus… I hope you can help me to know more about Christianity, so that I may suffer less from the impact of the terror (the slaughtering and the killing) in the name of Islam. I almost became an atheist … I want to know more about Jesus. Thank you.  

 

Our Pioneers responder spent time explaining salvation to Kasim. He is now following Christ and studying Matthew. The team is organizing local follow up and fellowship for Kasim, who lives in the Middle East.

 

Mark, who heads up this ministry team­—Arab World Media—says, “Pray that they would experience peace and joy this Christmas, (their first as a believer) despite the challenges they face.” Will you join us in praying for Kasim and the 426 other new Arab Christians as they celebrate the birth of Christ and grow in their new faith?

 

Want to know more about how you can help us make an impact through media? Read about our Three Strands Campaign.

 

* Name has been changed.

 

Is Pioneers Right for You?
Is Pioneers Right for You?
Choosing a sending agency is a big decision. How do you know which one to choose? Find out if Pioneers is right for you by initiating a conversation with one of our mission mentors.

"I love being a mission mentor because I get to connect with people who want to pursue their role in the Great Commission," says Rosemary, who leads the mission mentor team at Pioneers. "I get to hear their personal salvation stories. I pray with them and help them discern the next steps on their journey to an unreached people group. I want them to know if Pioneers is the best fit for them."

"Some have a clear vision of what they want to do and where they want to serve," says Emily, the administrator for the team. "They simply need someone to affirm they are on the right track and to encourage them to keep moving. Others are wrestling with what their role could be.

• We encourage college students to use their summers to proclaim His name.
• We hear from young professionals who want to use their skills to glorify God.
• We talk with young parents who plan to leave the comforts of their lives because the Lord is leading them to serve in hard places.
•We dream with older adults who are close to retirement but still have much to offer.

"Everybody needs a companion who will walk with them down a new road," Emily continues. "Someone to encourage and challenge them, rejoice and pray with them as they seek to obey the Lord and see the nations worship Him."


This team responds to emails, phone calls and inquiries that come in through our website. Their interest is to get to know you and help you get to know Pioneers. Email one of our mission mentors or share this video with a friend who may be interested.

See more articles about Pioneers:

High Impact Missionary Teams
Would You Eat These 10 Foods for the Gospel?
Pioneers Core Values
Launch Teams
• Survey Trip

Read more articles from our Breaking Barriers series.
A Very Beautiful Message
A Very Beautiful Message

Sameer was conflicted. He and his cousin were devoted Muslims, even engaging with militant Islamic organizations recruiting for jihad.

 

But Sameer and his cousin saw how hate and violence had torn apart their home country of Yemen, forcing them to flee to Turkey. Could there be another way?

 

One day, Sameer saw an online advertisement in Arabic. It offered a chance to talk with a Christian about Jesus. Sameer clicked and started a conversation with a Pioneers missionary. Pioneers used digital tools to advertise specifically in his area of Turkey so that one of our missionaries could meet with Arab refugees during a quick visit. That missionary, Philip, spent years serving refugees in the Middle East; now he was visiting Turkey to see how outreach could be done there.

 

Philip shares the rest of the story: “When we met Sameer and his cousin, they were extremely open and hungry to hear the truth. We shared the gospel with them, and Sameer replied, ‘This is a very beautiful message. Why didn’t someone come to our country and share this message with our people a long time ago?’ They both surrendered their lives to Christ, and said they felt a great joy and peace.”

 

Praise the Lord for Sameer’s testimony!

 

The Three Strands Campaign is one way you can help raise up missionaries and develop media tools for people like Sameer. Click here to find out more.

 

Staying Healthy in Missions
Staying Healthy in Missions

Q: How do you manage your time well, keep healthy spiritually, physically, and emotionally/mentally, and keep focus on what God wants? – A Pioneers appointee



A: “Take a weekly Sabbath”

My best advice is to have a weekly Sabbath in which you do no ministry and nothing “productive.” We have young kids, so this is family day/Saturday for us. We turn off the internet for the day and take the kids somewhere fun or stay at home for some intentional together time.

These are the memories I know they (and we) will love the most, and it is restorative to us because we do only what brings us joy and rest (reading and going to dinner, spending time at the beach and playing with the kids).

The moment when I realized that practicing Sabbath is an act of spiritual warfare, my life changed. Sabbath isn’t just about taking a breather. It is an ongoing reminder that I am not God and that the world doesn’t cease to function because I step away. Practicing Sabbath puts God back on the throne.

It’s consistently difficult to not let myself answer that one pressing email or make an exception to attend a staff meeting or a ministry opportunity with a person I am trying to connect with. But it’s been the best thing that I’ve ever done for my family, for my spiritual life, and for my mental, emotional, and physical health.

See also: Before You Go.

Before You Go
Before You Go

Your support is raised. Your bags are packed. You’re heading out for your first term as a newly minted missionary. What are you forgetting? We asked veteran missionaries what advice they’d give people preparing to serve in missions. Here’s what they said.

1. Serve in your church, first.

 

Get some hands-on experience. Be part of your sending church’s leadership, if you can. Join a church plant in the U.S. Start Bible studies with international students or refugees. Even if the context is quite different from what you may face on the field, you’ll get a good taste of what it takes to start and grow a new ministry. And if you’re serving with the church that’s going to send you out, you’ll also benefit from deepening those connections now.

 

2. Learn to plan and manage your time. 

 

Many missionaries don’t know what the next day may hold. That’s all the more reason to grow in personal management and strategic planning skills. Test and grow such skills at work, school, or in ministry.

 

“Life on the field is so much more complicated than I ever thought it could be…We find it so easy to spend all of our time putting out fires that ultimately don’t move us forward.”

 

3. Get ready to tackle a new language.

 

Many of us have had high-school Spanish or picked up some phrases to use on a short-term trip, but learning a new language from scratch and getting to the point where you can use it to build strong relational bridges requires some different skills and disciplines. As your departure for the field comes closer, consider a language acquisition course. A mission agency may recommend or even provide this kind of training.

 

“Even if your team doesn’t require it for you, it will absolutely pay off in your language and culture learning. It’s worth a little time and money to start the process well,” says one who came without such training. She feels as if she has been “driving in a slower gear” with her language learning because of that omission.

 

“Don’t rush language study to hurry into ministry. Invest the time and money up front in order to be effective later.”

 

4. Develop self-awareness and resilience.

Crossing cultures is tough work. The work may be difficult and slow. And, while in transition, you will likely be the worst version of yourself. So how do you face those challenges and overcome them? Part of the answer seems to dealing with the expectations you have for yourself and others and learning when to put those aside. Taking the time to reflect and learn from the experiences you have had can really make a difference. A ministry immersion internship of some kind can provide a greenhouse for your growth in this area, preparing you for life on the field long-term.

“Learn how you (1) relax and rejuvenate, and (2) process stress and anxiety in healthy way.”  

5. Grow in your relationship with God.

 

Finally, the key to getting through the challenges of your first term and becoming fruitful is staying connected to the vine (John 15:5), and that’s something you can focus on and benefit from right now.

 

“The most important preparation you can do is to practice daily time in prayer, Bible intake, and other spiritual disciplines.”

 

“Your personal walk with God is your anchor, the thing that will keep you steady when the unexpected trials come. Start now to figure out how to do battle in prayer and grow in intimacy with Christ. If that is a constant in your life, you have the foundation right. Everything else is secondary.”

 

See also: Staying Healthy in Missions.
The Soul of Surin
The Soul of Surin

Black magic? Elephant worship? Evil spirits? The histories and spiritual practices of three people groups have combined to form a palpable darkness in Surin. When a new Pioneers team moved into the area, they encountered unexpected opposition. 

Watch this video to see how they are fighting back. Learn more from this team and what they have to teach us in Armed for Battle: Veteran Missionary Interview

Armed for Battle
Armed for Battle

From their first day in Surin, Thailand, a Pioneers team experienced spiritual battle. In the following interview they provide insights on the spiritual warfare they and other workers may face, ways we can help them, and tips for facing battles that may also come our way.

 

Q: How would you define spiritual warfare? What is it, really?

 

A: We feel that spiritual warfare is an attack of the enemy.

 

The evil one will do something strategic to confuse us, throw us off course, hurt us, discourage or depress us, or thwart our plans to follow God’s will. This can be played out physically, emotionally, through relationships, or spiritually. We’ve found spiritual warfare to be very real in our lives. It tends to grow more intense when we are in places cut off from the gospel.

 

Q: How do cross-cultural workers typically experience spiritual warfare?

 

A: In our experience, cross-cultural workers typically experience spiritual warfare in the following ways:

 

• Sleep problems/nightmares

• Depression

• A feeling of heaviness, physical or spiritual

• Disruption in family life (children acting out, unexplained marital conflict, extreme irritability, etc.)

• Unexplained team issues or miscommunication

 

Less commonly, our team has also seen and felt evil spirits on or around us.

 

All of these issues tend to increase dramatically as spiritual holidays and celebrations are recognized among the people we are working with. For us, it’s also usually several of these issues happening at once.

 

Q: What effect does it have on new believers and seekers in your context?

 

A: New believers are under a lot of pressure.

 

We were sharing the gospel with a woman named Ning. Ning’s friend has a spirit inside of her that she said told her that Ning was needed be a spirit medium of a specific dead monk. Ning was very torn between this new “high calling” of being a spirit medium of a very prominent man, and seeking Jesus. She has yet to believe in Creator God.

 

In another instance, a family member threw away a new believer’s Bible and told them there was no reason to be seeking any other god than the gods they already worshipped.

 

Many loved ones tell seekers that if they turn their backs on their spirits and dead ancestors the spirits will come back and harm them or the family. They’d have no protection since they’d abandoned the spiritual practices that they believe are protecting them.

 

Some people have dreams of spirits “warning” them to not follow Jesus as well.

 

Q: How would you ask friends and supporters to pray for you in the midst of this battle?

 

A: We would ask friends and supporters to pray physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational protection.

 

• Pray that we would persevere through attacks.

• Pray that God would continue to train us up to be mighty warriors for Him.

• Pray that we would be humble and teachable, allowing the Holy Spirit to discipline us through the battle.

• Pray that we would continue to act in love and grace, and point others to the Father.

• Pray for our intimacy with God—that we would seek him in every way even when it’s the hardest thing to do. 

 

Q: What advice would you give others about recognizing and responding to spiritual warfare in their own lives?

 

A: Ask God to reveal what is going on in the spiritual realm and how to come against it.

 

Pray for the gift of discernment. Also, seek wise counsel from those who are familiar with spiritual warfare. Ask them to pray with you and for you. Be sensitive to how the Holy Spirit may be using them to help you understand more about spiritual warfare.

 

In our opinion, the best (and maybe only) response to spiritual warfare is prayer and worship. Sometimes it may be necessary to pray with others if the attacks are so intense it feels impossible to pray on your own. We would also encourage others to seek balance. Believers don’t want to go around thinking that anything bad or negative that happens in our lives is spiritual warfare. But on the other hand, we don’t want to think that spiritual warfare doesn’t exist. 

 

Q: How can we prepare ourselves for the battles that may come our way?

 

A: Study Scripture about spiritual warfare.

 

The Bible reminds us that spiritual warfare is real. It also teaches us how to respond to it. Another thing we can do is to have a deep and rich prayer life. The deeper we dig our wells in prayer, worship, and the Word, the more we can pull from those wells when battles come our way.

 

See more of this team’s story and the unique challenges they face in the video, The Soul of Surin.
Photo Essay — Joy Springs #4
Photo Essay — Joy Springs #4
The single largest church planted by Pioneers was started by the first Pioneers worker from Benin. And from the moment it formed, its members began planting other churches. Just a 20-minute drive away is a daughter church that started in a mud house. And it has outgrown the structure. So they began building a new structure around it—with the original still present inside. The new and the old grow together with the same heart. They see struggle and growth... lack and resource... hardship and beauty. This is the setting for the stories of what God is doing in West Africa.

This is the fourth photo essay in our Joy Springs series from West Africa. Take a look at #1, #2 and #3.
Can I Tell You a Story?
Can I Tell You a Story?

Pioneers around the world long to see disciple-making movements, with churches built on the foundation of believers embracing, obeying, and sharing Scripture. Julie*, a Pioneer in Africa, paints a picture of the how the process may begin.

 

It’s pretty simple, in a way. “When I’m working one on one with a woman, I try to identify stories from God’s Word that speak to where she is, and then teach her those stories and study them together to the point that she can tell them to someone else.”

 

But this takes a different kind of preparation than other approaches to making disciples. “When I teach a story, I memorize it,” says Julie. She makes sure she knows the story well, herself. When she meets with the woman she’s discipling, she’s ready to tell her the story and explore it with her.

 

“I’ll tell the story, slowly, once. I’ll tell it again. Then I’ll say, ‘Let’s go through the story again together. So Jesus was with his disciples… And what happened? Where’d they go? What happened next? Was there something that happened on that road as they were going along? Did somebody say something to Jesus? What did he say?’ I give them prompts.”

 

“And then I’ll say, ‘Okay, now you tell me the story.’” By that time the woman will have heard the story anywhere from four to six times. It’s sinking in—for both of them. Julie sees the scriptures come alive before her eyes and the eyes of her African friend. And she knows no greater joy than when one of her friends “gets” the story and sees something in it for herself.

 

But the process doesn’t stop there.

 

Julie asks what they learned and who else could benefit from it. She encourages her friends to tell others—her husband, if he’s open and her children, relatives or neighbors.

 

Sharing what they learn encourages a subtle shift of perspective. When a group of women gathered for a few days to learn about Bible storytelling, they looked at passages like Luke 10:2, where Jesus tells his followers the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few, instructing them to ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers for the harvest. “The application that they came up with was ‘We need to pray for more missionaries and pastors,’” says Julie, a little disappointed.

 

As they grew more confident in their ability to learn and share scripture, they saw the story—and themselves—differently. They realized that gospel ministry wasn’t just for pastors and missionaries. They recognized that they could be the answer to that prayer. “Maybe somebody already prayed and I’m supposed to be one of the people that goes out into the harvest field.”

 

Please lift up men and women like in contexts like the one where Julie serves. May they be drawn to the Word of God, learning and sharing Bible stories in their communities?

 

» Learn more of Julie’s story in A Ministry of Presence and explore opportunities to share the gospel and make disciples in more than 100 countries where Pioneers works.

 

* Name has been changed. 

A Ministry of Presence
A Ministry of Presence

Who of us doesn’t agree that relationships really ought to come first in our lives? Yet all of us may struggle with this at times. We may prefer or simply feel we have no choice but to focus on other priorities.

 

Try adding cross-cultural dynamics to the mix by moving into a context where there’s a new language to learn and where people’s expectations or assumptions about friendship, neighborliness, and hospitality are like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Pioneers worldwide navigate these tensions, feeling both the pain of adjustment and the joy of connecting with those to whom God has sent them.

 

Julie* has noticed that in the context where she serves, just being present in the daily lives of her African friends, and especially at key events, speaks volumes. “There is nothing that makes a [West Africa] woman happier than people coming by to visit,” Julie says.

 

She spends a lot of time socializing, whether chatting around the rice bowl and drinking tea, dancing at her friends’ parties, or showing up for events where she may just feel like part of the crowd. Julie’s presence, though, is noted.

 

“When a woman in this culture is introducing you to another woman, they will say, ‘This is So-and-so, and when my father died she came for two days, and when my daughter was married, she was there. When I was sick she came to the hospital with fruit.’ They give a resume of how you showed up in their life as a way of introduction.”

 

Pursuing a ministry of presence can be a challenge for those who come to the field from a fast-paced American life. “Ministry here is not like placing your order and going through the drive-through. You’re going to put in years, sometimes,” Julie explains. Though there are seasons of acceleration when God works quickly, from the missionary’s perspective it can seem so slow, just making their rounds and showing up in someone’s life week after week. “And then one day, the door opens, and you don’t know when it will happen. Who knows if it’s going to be your next visit? What if you decided ‘this is enough!’ and the next visit would have been the one?”

 

In any culture where keeping peace and saving face are high values, building trust takes time. Broken trust can be almost impossible to repair. As a result, the people tend to wear masks. They don’t open themselves to others and share their thoughts and struggles very easily. These dynamics play out in relationship-building, evangelism and discipleship; they may also characterize a fragile newly planted church. How do you build a church of people who do not trust one another?

 

Julie had been visiting one woman for years before one day, when the family dispersed for afternoon naps, the woman started to talk about the struggles she has. “Finally, something broke, and I put in the right amount of time of just being present with her that she felt she could open up.” Julie, who was wondering if it was time to give up, now counts it her most significant friendship. This is the woman in whom she’s seen the most spiritual growth.

 

When Julie asked Christian women of a Muslim background what they wanted new missionaries to know, they repeated again and again, “No one is argued into the kingdom. Love us and spend time with us. We will see the love of Christ through that.”

 

» Learn more of Julie’s story in Can I Tell You a Story?

 

» Explore opportunities to share the gospel and make disciples in more than 100 countries where Pioneers works.

 

* Name has been changed.

Global Glimpse: West Africa
Global Glimpse: West Africa
A father and son who work as Pioneers in West Africa have learned how to present themselves to the locals in a different way in order to be recognized as spiritual people instead of humanitarian aid workers.
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 and 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.