International Day of Prayer and Fasting

Kenneth Eagleton

International Day of Prayer and Fasting

International Day of Prayer and Fasting

 

The International Fellowship of Free Will Baptist Churches (IFOFWBC) is promoting an International Day of Prayer and Fasting on June 14th to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. The International Fellowship is a cooperative effort of FWB associations from different countries. It “unites Free Will Baptist churches from around the world for the purposes of identification, communion, and mutual edification and encouragement in order to better fulfill the Great Commission of evangelism and the establishment of churches among all peoples.” The IFOFWBC meets every three years in a different country. 

 

Dr. Melvin Worthington, executive secretary of the NAFWB at the time, was the first to suggest the creation of an international organization in the early 1990s. A Consultation with representatives from different countries was held in Panama in 1992. This consultation recommended an organizational meeting three years later, in Brazil, when the IFOFWBC officially came into being. The International Fellowship meets every three years. The last meeting was in Japan in 2018 and the next one will be in Bulgaria in 2021.

 

The current president of the IFOFBC is pastor Jeancarlo Achê, from Brazil. In May pastor Achê called for this International Day of Prayer and Fasting. Each Free Will Baptist Church is invited to join, even if their association is not affiliated with the IFOFWBC. Five areas of focus of prayer are suggested: the COVID-19 disease, the economic effects of the pandemic, the emotional effects, the political effects, and the impact on local churches. Within each area a few generic prayer requests have been suggested:

 

COVID-19 Disease

Pray that the spread of the disease would halt.

Pray for those who have become infected.

Pray for those who are mourning the loss of loved ones.

Pray for the protection of healthcare workers and others in direct contact with COVID-19 patients.

 

Economic effects

Pray for those who are struggling due to loss of employment or source of income due to economic activity restrictions.

Pray for those who are struggling just to feed themselves and their families.

Pray for relief efforts in which many FWBs are participating.

Pray for business owners who are facing large losses and bankruptcy. 

Pray for the churches and Christian ministries that are greatly affected by the current and future economic recession.

 

Emotional effects

Pray for those who are suffering from anxiety and depression during the pandemic.

Pray for those that are suffering from domestic abuse due to long periods of confinement.

Pray for those who are confused, questioning God, or who have lost hope.

 

Political effects – many places are facing a political crisis due to diverging views of how the pandemic should be handled.

Pray that the Lord would give wisdom to government officials at all levels in the best way to help protect the people and care for those who have been affected by the crisis.

Pray that Christians would act as peacemakers and hope-givers and not contribute to the polarization of society.

 

Churches

Pray for local churches that have been affected by meeting restrictions and the ability to care for their members.

Pray for wisdom for the congregations as they make decisions regarding returning to in-person services.

Pray that the lessons churches learned from this pandemic would be applied to everyday ministry.

Pray for pastors as they have been under increased pressure to meet the demands of their congregations during this exceptional time.

Pray for the support of the pastors, as the income of most churches has been affected.

 

Please visit and follow the IFOFWBC’s Facebook page and Instagram account to learn more.

 

A Globalized Gospel for Latin America

Kenneth Eagleton

A Globalized Gospel for Latin America

IM invested personnel and resources over several decades to start a network of Free Will Baptist churches in Panama. With the work firmly established, IM no longer maintains resident missionaries in country. Local believers carry on the work, united by an Association of Free Will Baptist churches. Besides the churches, they also operate a Bible institute to train local leaders for various church ministries, including pastors. We have facilitated a partnership between the Seminary and Welch College to give their teachers advanced training.

This year, the association voted to sponsor three new church-plant projects. A number of people are involved in these efforts.

The Chitré church also sponsors a church-plant in Venezuela. A Venezuelan refugee who s attended the church in Chitré felt a real burden to return to his country to preach the gospel and start a church. The church in Chitré sponsors this new work, already in its second year. Several people have been saved and are ready for baptism. Despite the economic and political crisis the country is experiencing, the gospel continues to be announced, giving hope to the hopeless.

Earlier this year, while I was in Panama, I got to interview Emiliano and Carolaine, a couple from the Betania FWB Church in Panama City. Last year, they told me about spending 14 months in Nicaragua to complete an MBA program. While there, they initiated an on-campus Bible study with post-grad students from several Latin American countries. Many, who previously considered themselves agnostic, became very interested in Christianity. Others heard a clear presentation of the gospel for the first time and were saved. Several nominal Christians started growing in their faith.

In my interview, I asked them how they have kept in contact with these students since their return to Panama. This couple holds weekly Bible studies by Skype (an internet communications platform) with students from the countries of Nicaragua, Peru, Bolivia, Honduras and Venezuela (this student lives in Argentina). They have even restarted the series of studies with a new generation of students. How many Bible students do they teach in this manner? About 30! Two of these students, who are in Bolivia, made a profession of faith and later traveled to Panama City specifically to be baptized in the Betania FWB Church.

Several months ago, they initiated another Bible study with two unsaved couples in the home of a family in Panama City. God is using this educated couple to globalize the gospel, starting from home and spreading throughout Latin America.

At IM, we are glad to partner with the Association of FWB Churches in Panama to fulfill the Great Commission.

Aka’s Story

Kenneth Eagleton

Aka’s Story

While I was in Tiassalé, Ivory Coast, I ate lunch with one of the men in the church, Mr. Aka. After the Sunday morning service, both I and one of the pastors accompanying me, asked questions about his spiritual journey. Prior to becoming a Christian, he was a follower of Mahikari, a Japanese religious sect. His mother, a follower of that religion, influenced her children to become involved as well. About 20 years ago, he began living with a woman with an evangelical background. She, too, became involved in the sect.

Ten years ago, the couple moved to Tiassalé. Mahikari doesn’t have a following there. So, they just quit attending any kind of religious service. Eventually, feeling the need to reconnect with God, Mr. Aka’s companion decided to return to an evangelical church. She started attending the Free Will Baptist church. Liking what she heard, she invited her husband to attend with her. He had many questions about Jesus and spent long periods of time talking to Pastor Emmanuel of the FWB church. Mr. Aka became convinced of the truth about Jesus and salvation found only in Him.

The problem was, he was scared. Three family members left the sect at different times; each one met with unfortunate situations. One family member even died a sudden death. Mr. Aka was afraid of what might happen to him. However, his conviction about his need for Christ continued to grow. It became so strong, he stepped out in faith and became a Christ-follower. He said, contrary to what happened to his other family members, he received immediate peace and happiness. He married his companion of nearly 20 years and both were baptized this past January.

IM’s partnership with the Association of FWB churches in Ivory Coast allows us to plant churches like this one that are reaching the lost. The Bible Institute we help support in Ivory Coast trains pastors like Emmanuel who was able to answer Aka’s many questions. The Tiassalé FWB church is in a building project. The walls are up, but they don’t have money to put a roof on. The Ivory Coast partnership is providing the funds so they will have a place to worship (they are currently worshiping under a makeshift shelter).

The Association of FWB Churches now has 134 churches and more than 10,300 people in attendance. Our continued partnership allows them to do more and do it quicker.

Partnering in Cuba

Kenneth Eagleton

Partnering in Cuba

Free Will Baptists first sent missionaries to Cuba in 1941, with Tom (Pop) and Mabel Willey. In 1943, the Willeys purchased property in Pinar del Río, the most western of the provinces. This became the major center from which Free Will Baptists spread to nearly all of the 15 provinces. They began a Bible institute early on, to train local believers in the Bible and give them the tools to become leaders in the churches. The Communist Revolution took over Cuba in 1959, forcing all missionaries to leave the country.

Throughout the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, Free Will Baptists in Cuba underwent severe persecution with extremely limited contact with believers outside the country. After initial trips by IM representatives, a greater level of contact and cooperation emerged in the 1990s. In 2015, a formal partnership agreement was drawn up between the National Association of FWB Churches in Cuba and IM.

The Cuban National Association has 146 churches and mission churches. Many congregations meet in houses since they are not allowed to build worship centers. We partner with the Cuban church, helping them buy houses in places a new church is being planted so they have a place to meet. Fourteen of the 15 provinces in Cuba have at least one FWB church.

The Cuban seminary (Bible College) Pop Willey started in the 1940s is located on the western side of the island and has over 250 students preparing for ministry in their various programs on- and off-campus. IM believes in the importance of this training for the present and future of the work and invests in it financially as well as sending teachers on short-term assignments. Recently, another training location was added 560 miles away, on the eastern side of the island.

Our cooperation with Cuba also extends to helping in areas such as church camps for various ages, retreats, leadership training workshops, and assistance with the association’s nursing home. Each year E-TEAM sends a group down to work alongside Cuban youth for evangelistic outreach and to encourage the church youth.

While preaching in Cuba earlier this year, I had the privilege of seeing two people come to faith in Jesus Christ. This is the ultimate objective of laboring with the Body of Christ to fulfill the Great Commission.

 

Photo: Cedars of Lebanon seminary in Pinar del Rio, Cuba; Credit: Clint Morgan

Resourcing Partnerships

Kenneth Eagleton

Resourcing Partnerships

I hope last week’s post helped you better understand partnerships. Now, let’s focus on how we provide resources for partnerships.

Providing monetary funding, though an important resource, is not the only way we assist our partners in ministry.

We provide short-term personnel. Bible institutes and Bible colleges may need specialized courses or professors to assist students in their quest for well-rounded, effective learning. Medical professionals provide medical treatment in the jungle of Ecuador and continuing education at the medical facilities in Doropo, Africa. Partners in Central Asia need construction workers to help provide Hope Centers for the needy. A dormitory in Cuba, Christian schools in Ecuador and Ivory Coast, and new patient rooms in our hospital in Ivory Coast have benefited from short-term construction workers from the U.S. When needed, we provide speakers for special events such as conferences, pastor’s retreats, and other important gatherings.

IM works to identify needs, coordinate projects, and provide personnel for short-term medical, construction, and educational needs. Often, our partner organization The Hanna Project plays the primary role in this effort.

We provide supplies. The hospital in Doropo needs updated equipment, basic medicines, and other supplies. IM seeks resources and ships these to Côte d’Ivoire. We’ve also sent playground equipment to Central Asia, provided eyeglasses and exams in multiple countries, and paid for Bibles in heart languages. Sometimes, the best use of resources is to simply provide supplies and allow the local leaders to distribute or use them in the way they deem best.

We provide financial assistance. Just as it is sometimes more beneficial to provide supplies and let others distribute or use them it may be more feasible to subsidize the salary of a church-planter starting a new work than to send a missionary to a country rejecting missionary efforts. It may make more sense to pay local workers to complete a project than send a team to do it. We provide financial assistance to Bible colleges and Bible institutes in Brazil, Panama, Cuba, Ivory Coast, Central Asia, and Russia so national leaders can train other local leaders for ministry responsibilities. We also assist with some of the expenses related to summer camps, retreats, and conferences in some countries.

You can participate. Many people (both in our churches as well as IM workers) volunteer their time, experience, and expertise to cooperate in the various ministry projects we have with our partners. If you’d like to join them, contact us for current opportunities or ways you can help.

The World Missions Offering (WMO) is our principal source of partnership funding. Giving to the WMO during the emphasis month of April, or at any other time of the year, ensures our partners are able to evangelize, disciple and train believers; plant churches; meet medical and educational needs; and so much more. If you, or your church, are interested in supporting our IM partnerships, please contribute to the WMO.

Not all of our partnerships receive funds. But those that do, need you to give so their work can continue.

The long-term solution for funding our partnerships is engaging individuals and churches in ongoing involvement with at least one partnership. As you pray for the projects being carried out and make trips to get to know them personally, you can also designate a regular (preferably monthly) contribution to the partnership account of your choice. Designated-giving donors are key to maintaining and expanding what we do in collaboration with our partners.

Your financial engagement makes a tremendous difference as we work with our partners to take the gospel to the ends of the Earth, disciple new believers, equip the saints for the work of the ministry, and bring “help, hope, and healing” to those who are needy and broken.

Note: Besides contributing to the funding of IM partnerships, the WMO also helps missionaries whose accounts are in the deficit or struggling, as well as providing part of the general fund income.

Understanding Partnerships

Kenneth Eagleton

Understanding Partnerships

At our national convention in Louisville, Kentucky, in July 2017, a gentleman told me he had been praying daily for partnerships. He paused and added, “…but I don’t know what they are.” He’s not the only one. Since then, several other people have said similar things.

In IM’s context, a partnership is cooperation between IM and other organizations working internationally. When compared to many international organizations, we are small. We have personnel and financial limitations. We don’t have workers in every country around the world, nor do we provide all the types of missionary ministries available. But we are able to expand our capabilities and scope of work when we work with others in a cooperative way—a partnership.

You only have a partnership when all those cooperating “bring something to the table” to accomplish a common goal. They don’t all necessarily bring the same thing or in the same quantity. At a potluck dinner, one person may bring meat while another contributes a vegetable dish or drinks. Some don’t bring food but help cook, set up tables, or clean up after the meal. In our partnerships, some of our common contributions are personnel, finances, expertise, labor, and materials.

We use the following principles for partnerships.

All participate. As I mentioned above, everyone contributes something. A partnership is not a handout. Partners work together. The type or level of participation might not be the same, but everyone contributes what they have to offer. For example, the seminary in Cuba needed the women’s dorm renovated and the second floor finished. IM put together a project, FWB Foundation provided funds, and Cuba and The Hanna Project (THP) provided labor.

Interdependence. In Western culture (especially North America and Europe), people are taught independence. Each individual is expected to become autonomous and as self-sufficient as possible. Though bearing some merit, when pushed too far, autonomy doesn’t resemble biblical teaching. The New Testament persistently admonishes Christians to a life of mutuality (see the “one another” passages) and community. This biblical principle promotes interdependence rather than independence. Partnerships allow us to practice this principle.

Empower national believers. As we work with believers from other countries and people groups, we want to empower them and enhance the national church’s effectiveness in evangelism, discipleship, church planting, training, and missions. We aren’t looking to control others but work as partners in ministry.

Avoid dependency. As we work in partnerships and empower believers in other countries, our goal is to increase their capabilities without creating dependency. Doing things for others they should be doing for themselves does not help. To the contrary, it hinders their ability to develop and grow.

Work through national associations. Many of our partnership projects are with Free Will Baptist works in other countries. Over several decades, through IM, FWBs have sent missionaries to pioneer evangelistic work, plant churches, disciple new believers, and train leaders. In places like Brazil, Panama, Cuba, Ivory Coast, India, and South Korea, we have mature churches with mature leaders. They have formed national associations, making our continued presence unnecessary in most of these countries. We want to respect those associations and strengthen the work as a whole. When we partner with a national association in another country, we sit down with the national leadership to determine together what is most beneficial for the work as a whole.

We believe approaching partnerships in this manner not only empowers local leadership but also advances God’s Kingdom.

Why a DFP?

Kenneth Eagleton

Why a DFP?

Today, International Missions (IM) has fewer North American missionaries on the field than a decade ago. But our world outreach and its effects are greater. This is mostly due to our partnerships with other organizations working internationally. The national associations of Free Will Baptist churches in other countries, as well as other local and specialized organizations, make us more effective and flexible.

In July 2017, IM reorganized its administration of field operations. Instead of dividing responsibilities into five geographical regions (Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and Creative Access Countries) with regional directors, the new structure features a Director of Field Ministry Personnel (the DFMP, who supervises the missionaries) and a Director of Field Partnerships (DFP). Some of the tasks of the DFP are:

IM representative. The DFP is IM’s representative in the collaborative efforts with our partnerships and the evaluation and recommendation of new ones. Each year the DFP meets with other representatives of the partnerships to evaluate projects. Adjustments are made, including discontinuing some projects and starting new ones. When meeting with executive committee members of national associations, activities of the association are reviewed and areas needing help are considered. The DFP represents IM at the Annual Conventions of these associations. This requires extensive international travel.

Consultant. With more than eight decades of cross-cultural ministry, the Mission frequently receives requests for advice, opinions, and training. The DFP serves as a consultant to our national churches in other countries as well as an encourager and trainer.

Facilitator. The DFP serves as a facilitator in the interaction of our partners amongst themselves and with our supporters in the United States. Many times this involves helping them cross language and cultural barriers. The DFP also aids in collecting statistics from our fields of work.

Communications. The DFP is the communications link between what is happening on the fields and our constituents stateside. News of the work, stories about what God is doing in people’s lives, reports, statistics, and accountability from the projects need to be communicated stateside through various news release channels. Donors of the partnerships and projects are tracked and letters of appreciation are sent.

Please pray for me as I try to fulfill this strategically important role. Help me pray for wisdom from on high, spiritual discernment, and sensitivity to the needs of others.

Funding Partnerships

Kenneth Eagleton

Funding Partnerships

In previous posts, we explored different aspects of the various partnerships International Missions (IM) has with other organizations working internationally. Now, we focus on funding these partnerships.

Many people (both constituents in our churches as well as IM workers) volunteer their time, experience, and expertise to cooperate in the various ministry projects we have with our partners. Money is not the only resource, but it is an important one.

Missionaries involved in ministry projects on their fields are the natural fundraisers for them. IM has traditionally relied on this method. However, we do not currently have IM missionaries assigned to most of our partnerships and, therefore, do not have these natural fundraisers. This creates a challenge for raising the necessary resources.

The current solution is to use the World Missions Offering (WMO) as our principal source of partnership funding[1]. (Note: not all of our approximately 18 partnerships receive funds.) If you, or your church, are interested in supporting our IM partnerships, please contribute to the WMO. You may give during the main emphasis month of April or at any other time of the year.

The long-term solution for funding our partnerships is engaging individuals and churches in ongoing involvement with at least one partnership. As you pray for the projects being carried out and make trips to get to know them personally, you can also designate a regular (preferably monthly) contribution to the partnership account of your choice. Designated giving donors are key to maintaining and expanding what we do in collaboration with our partners.

Your financial engagement makes a tremendous difference as we work with our partners to take the gospel to the ends of the Earth, disciple new believers, equip the saints for the work of the ministry, and bring “help, hope, and healing” to those who are needy and broken.

[1] Besides contributing to the funding of IM partnerships, the WMO also helps missionaries whose accounts are in the deficit or struggling, as well as providing part of the general fund income.

Partnership Projects

Kenneth Eagleton

Partnership Projects

In previous blog posts, we discussed partnerships in the International Missions (IM) context, looked at some of the principles guiding our cooperative efforts, and briefly reviewed the types of partnerships. Today, we will focus on different projects or activities that we cooperate in with our partners.

Church-planting. In Brazil, Cuba, and India we cooperate with the national church in sending church-planters into new areas where they do evangelism and discipleship of new believers, bringing them together in fellowship to form new churches.

Cross-cultural missions. IM comes alongside our national churches in Brazil, Cuba, and Ivory Coast to cooperate in sending missionaries from those countries to Uruguay, Turkey, Ivory Coast, and Ghana. In the near future, missionaries from former mission fields will be sent to even more countries.

Leadership training. We are helping support the efforts of our partners in training their spiritual leaders in countries like Brazil, Panama, Cuba, Ivory Coast, India, Korea, Russia, and Central Asia. We believe this is an essential component to secure the sustainability of a mature and doctrinally sound movement of churches.

Christian schools. Projects with partners support the creation and functioning of Christian schools in Ecuador and Ivory Coast.

Construction projects. We have worked with our partners in several construction projects, including churches, a camp dormitory, hospital, and Christian schools.

Humanitarian projects. Recent projects in cooperation with our partners include short-term medical teams, community health projects, adult literacy classes, schools staffed by volunteers, support of Hope Centers, and micro-loans for those needing to set up an economic activity to support their families.

All these opportunities give our Free Will Baptist people and churches avenues for direct involvement in a greater variety of ministries around the world.

Our next blog will look at funding for our partnerships.

 

Types of Partnerships

Kenneth Eagleton

Types of Partnerships

In previous blogs, we established that partnerships in the International Missions (IM) context are cooperative efforts with organizations working internationally, and we looked at some of the principles that guide our cooperative efforts. Today we will focus on the different types of partnerships.

Partnerships with National Churches. Most of our partnerships are with national associations of Free Will Baptist churches on fields where we no longer have resident missionaries (with a couple of exceptions). IM has a high investment of personnel and finances over a period of several decades in these fields resulting in mature churches, mature spiritual leaders, church growth momentum, and FWB institutions (such as Bible institutes or seminaries). We cannot and should not walk away from them. We must do all we can to cultivate our interdependence, maintain relationships, empower them to continue to effectively evangelize and disciple their country, and facilitate their involvement in an international network of Free Will Baptists. Some of the partnerships in Brazil, Panama, Cuba, Ivory Coast, India, and South Korea have formal agreements of cooperation while in some countries our agreement is informal.

Local Kingdom Organizations. In Uganda, Africa, we partner with Village of Hope, an organization providing shelter, restoration, and training for children caught up in the country’s recent civil war. In Ecuador, we partner with Jungle Kids for Christ (JKC) which takes Christian education into the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle. They not only have a Christian school and a children’s hostel but are also planting a church.

Specialized Kingdom agencies. We partner with an agency that provides opportunities for teaching English in creative access countries (as a means of ministry). Another partner, Bible Missions, works in evangelism, church planting, and leadership training in five countries of Central Asia. Our cooperation with BERACA in Ivory Coast, Africa, provides for medical needs, adult literacy, AIDS prevention initiatives, and micro-loans for those needing to start an economic activity to support their families.

Other FWB organizations. IM also partners with other FWB organizations stateside and overseas for the benefit of our international works. Some of our projects have received the collaboration of WNAC, NAM, the FWB Foundation, Welch College, Randall University, Randall House, our own The Hanna Project (THP), and others.