Reaching the unreached Arab people in Tajikistan

Lauren Biggs

Reaching the unreached Arab people in Tajikistan

It’s one of the most remote places of Tajikistan, down in the South, right at the border with Afghanistan. No one actually would choose to live here. Unbearable heat in the summer, 122 Fahrenheit is the normal. 

The Arab settlements of this region are like leftovers from ancient times, with historic Nestorian (early Christianity) monasteries. The world has forgotten them, as well as the 1,500 people living here. 

There is no church and no group of believers. And yet, we took the long drive from the capital city of Dushanbe to the settlement of Ayvadsh, because God had clearly told us to go – through a man called Iskander, who had shown up at our church in Dushanbe one day… 

Iskander did not cease inviting us to visit him in his home village in the very South of Tajikistan. He almost insisted. So we went. Our group of brothers from the Dushanbe church became part of the story God was writing with the forgotten Arabs in Tajikistan. But God had never forgotten them! He had opened the doors through Iskander. We met Iskander’s wife, mother and children. All of them were extremely grateful to listen as we shared about Christ. But this was just the beginning of a greater story… 

For our visit to Iskander in September 2020, he had invited 10 of his relatives and friends, and we shared the Gospel with them. All of them were listening with great attention and asking questions. Right there, his mother prayed the prayer of repentance. Iskander said: “I want my house to become a House of Prayer for all nations!” 

We also met Chalil. Iskander said: “I assume he is a believer too, because I heard him arguing about Christ with the local Mullahs.” Chalil told us that he indeed is a believer in Jesus Christ. He had come to faith by watching Christian TV programs in the Iranian language. Having become a believer, he thought there were no other Christians around him, and so he baptized himself, then he baptized his wife. It turned out that, although both Iskander and Chalil lived in the same settlement, they did not know of each other’s search for Christ. 

Chalil did not even have a Bible. We brought one and gave it to him as a gift. He took it with hands trembling with reverence, holding it tight, thanking us over and over again. 

There are 2 families meeting today and a few more people who are interested in the Gospel, altogether 8 adults and about 10 kids. A brother from the Dushanbe church is visiting them every month. And each time, they can’t wait for him to come and serve them.  

Iskander made a room in his house available for the meetings of the group. It’s the only Prayer Room in the entire area. But it’s also the first one – the beginning of God’s story with Iskander and all the other Arabs in the South of Tajikistan.

 

 

Written by the country Director of Bible Mission in Tajikistan

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Christmas Giving

Don Matchett

Christmas Giving

Christmas is upon us. You may not know it, but change is in the air.  Something about Christmas changes the way we think about the world.  How do I know this?  Because people think more about the welfare of others than themselves during this season.  This is what makes the Christmas season the most generous time of year.  There isn’t a close second. Yes, I know a few bah-humbuggers, but for most people, generosity shines brightest in December.

It is an amazing thing to witness: the number of gifts given, money donated, sheer masses of volunteers, and all the energy spent to help others experience the joys of Christmas.  “’Tis the season” to make life easier for others, alleviate burdens, and bring joy to what might be an otherwise difficult season.

Why are people generous this time of year? It seems clear to me.  Believers and nonbelievers alike, whether they know it or not, are driven by the spirit of the season.  I’m not talking about the secular version. We celebrate the most generous gift of all—the gift of Christ to the world.

The last stanza of Iris W. Brays poem entitled “Christmas Giving” says,

Whether it be large or small
Each gift will share in part
The message of true Christmas joy
If given from the heart!

I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas.  It is my prayer you are moved to a new level of compassion and charity this Christmas season.

The greatest gift you could give this Christmas is the gift of the gospel to the nations.  Recipients of the World Missions Offering still need funding. Would you consider going to the link below to share your Christmas joy through a generous donation? What is more joyful than knowing the Greatest Gift the world has ever known?

Go ahead, be generous. Give now.

 

 

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Thank You

Don Matchett

Thank You

Every year, a sense of anticipation overtakes the IM office as we eagerly await your generous World Missions Offerings. And, for good reason. So much depends on them. Budgets are finalized. Plans are made. Our ministry partners are in place, eager to see if we can reach even further this year. Everyone is praying this year’s offering will be record-breaking—not because breaking records is a priority. But because, the greater the offering, the more Great Commission work we can accomplish.

A mission partner recently wrote, “We would not have a church if it weren’t for our generous friends in the United States.”

Thank you for ensuring more churches will be planted. Thank you for empowering trainers to train and leaders to lead. Thank you for funding medical supplies to treat the body, opening the door for Christ to heal the spirit.

You are so much more than a “donor.” You are a family member, a team member. In fact, you are included in our mission statement: We exist to labor with the Body of Christ to fulfill the Great Commission. Together, we empower men and women around the world to preach the gospel to the sin-sick and hopeless. What an exciting opportunity to be part of what God is doing around the world!

So, whether this was your first year to give to the World Missions Offering, you participate annually, or your offering is still in the works, thank you. We look forward with great anticipation to what God will do with our generous gifts.

 

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Freedom of Religion and the Gospel

Trif Trifonov

Freedom of Religion and the Gospel

“At 4 o’clock in the morning, the doorbell rang, then again and again. There were three strangers there —two were wearing suits and one a military uniform. ‘We have a search warrant,’ said their leader, then he pushed me back and intruded into the sleeping house.

“Within three hours they rummaged everything—books, beds, cabinets, drawers. When at about 7 the sunshine shone through the window, they ordered me to go with them for a ‘little inquiry’….”

Thank God, this is not a story of the present. But it is not fiction either. It’s a real story. This took place in the life of a Bulgarian pastor, Haralan Popov, in the first years of the communist regime.

Earlier this year, our parliament tried hard to violate [our] fundamental rights. For now, it looks like evangelical churches won a victory. The relative freedom we have enjoyed will, more or less, continue.

Bulgaria’s restrictive law-making is happening against the backdrop of a new wave of persecution in the Middle East, India, Northern Africa, and China, as well as the resurgence of nationalism in Europe.

Many fear the church won’t be able to do the Great Commission. Our wings will be cut off and we won’t be able to fly to the unreached; our legs will be amputated so we can’t go to the needy; our hands will be broken and unable to reach the hungry.

During communism, the church survived but didn’t thrive. She was deprived of her best leaders, had no access to the public arena, and found evangelism a risky business.

Other voices say the church needs to be shaken up and sifted, so the chaff is separated from the wheat (Matthew 3:12). The proponents of this view point to communist China. In the last 30 years, Christianity has grown to more than 100 million adherents in China.

Though persecuted, the Early Church, also grew rapidly in number. Persecution caused many to flee and take the gospel to the ends of the Roman world.

If we believe God is our King, no restrictions in secular laws should be able to hinder the gospel.

Personally, I think as Christians we should treasure and defend our freedom of religion because God created us with this “unalienable right.” Religious freedom is rooted in the Scriptures and is at the heart of the gospel.

God doesn’t coerce but invites his followers in a relationship with Him. God is love, and love presupposes freedom. Christian commitment to religious freedom reflects our beliefs about the character of the Creator.

Secondly, the struggle for religious freedom is part and parcel of the second great commandment to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:38). God has given each human being dignity. When the basic human right of religious freedom is not granted, human dignity is damaged.

And, last, restrictions on religious freedom hinder people from hearing the gospel and receiving the greatest gift imaginable: salvation and eternal life.

It is true Christianity in China is growing rapidly, in spite of restrictions and pressure from the state. Yet, how can we be sure it would not grow even faster if freedom of religion were made available in the vast country. The rapid evangelization of South Korea provides a case in point.

Plato said, “The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Once we paid that penalty. We are still recovering from that evil. May God give us wisdom and courage to defend our religious freedom and make sure all Bulgarian citizens have access to the gospel.

 

Trif Trifonov and his family serve as missionaries in Bulgaria. The World Missions Offering provides some of his support. This blog is excerpted from an article written for ONE Magazine. Read the whole article here.

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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.

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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.

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Kill Two Birds With One Stone

Clint Morgan

Kill Two Birds With One Stone

You might be familiar with the saying, “kill two birds with one stone.” From a practical point of view, this means achieving two things in a single action and seems a realistic possibility.

While I don’t recall killing two birds with one stone, I have killed two birds with one blast from a shotgun. I was pretty overwhelmed at the moment I did it, but I’ve heard way too many stories of this kind to get puffed up about it.

Let me tell you about another challenge that has significant temporal and eternal value. Did you know you can contribute to three aspects of IM’s ministries with one offering?

IM’s annual World Missions Offering (WMO) is a golden opportunity to achieve that feat…give once and help resource three budgets. This is our annual appeal for a special offering on the last Sunday in April…or any other Sunday of the year if that is not convenient.

How does a church or individual give to the WMO and help fund three distinct budgets?  The money received from the WMO is divided into three categories.

  • Partnerships: IM has developed partnerships with fields where we no longer have missionaries or have only one individual or family in the country like India, Cuba, Panama, Côte d’Ivoire, Central Asia, and Brazil. We also have partnerships in other places where Free Will Baptists serve. Currently, these budgets total almost $400,000.
  • Deficit or underfunded accounts: After the partnership budgets are covered, missionary accounts that are in deficit or underfunded receive 60% of all remaining funds. Last year, missionaries benefitted from over $100,000 of the WMO funds.
  • General fund: If the general fund is in need, it will receive 40% of all monies over and above the partnership budgets. However, if the general fund need is covered by designated funds, the 40% will redirect to deficit accounts.

There you have it…one offering benefits three budgets. You can help tremendously by giving to the WMO.  If you or your church have not participated in this annual special offering, this is a great time to get started.

Do more than kill two birds with one stone. Make it possible to see many souls saved, multiple churches planted, missionary deficits erased, pastors trained, and much more by giving once to the World Missions Offering.

 

Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird#/media/File:Calliope-nest_edit.jpg

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Building Churches, Building Lives

Don Matchett

Building Churches, Building Lives

The World Missions Offering makes it possible to build churches in countries like Ivory Coast. Ivorian church members are mostly farmers with few resources. They do not always have the financial means nor the construction capabilities to complete a church building. IM and the World Missions offering provide much-needed assistance. Our agreement? If they construct the walls, IM will provide financial assistance for the roof.

The World Missions Offering helps with humanitarian aid in a variety of ways, both directly and indirectly.

One area is IM’s partnership with BERACA. A Free Will Baptist non-profit in Ivory Coast, Africa, BERACA maintains the Doropo Hospital. They also provide AIDS prevention, support for children with HIV, programs for at-risk children, adult literacy classes, classrooms in villages with no school, and the list goes on and on.

Currently, IM, The Hanna Project, and BERACA are partnering to renovate the Doropo Hospital and construct a new patient ward.

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Internationals Serve Cross-Culturally

Deborah St. Lawrence

Internationals Serve Cross-Culturally

Often, believers in countries with established Free Will Baptist works feel God tugging them toward cross-cultural ministry but do not have the resources to make it occur.

Gnarkité Jonas Kambou, a student at the Bible institute in Bouna, Côte d’Ivoire, was awarded an internship with Pastor Appiah in Tiassee, Ghana. He will spend a year working in Ghana, putting to practical use the lessons learned in the classroom. Pastor Appiah began planting this Free Will Baptist church in 2017. Though he has seen some success, Jonas’ help will greatly boost the effort.

It took almost two years for all the paperwork to be approved, but Pastor Yosniel and Dr. Katiuska (with their two children) and a single lady, Lázara, are now serving in Ivory Coast, Africa. Dr. Katiuska, a physician, and Lázara, an X-ray and ultrasound technician, serve in our hospital in Doropo. Pastor Yosniel works in evangelism and discipleship.

Former students at the seminary in Chame, Panama, initiated a ministry that serves in the dangerous village streets of Colombia. They continue to share the gospel despite threats and curses by a witchdoctor.

Pastor Yosvanys Quiñones, his wife Anita, and their two children recently moved from Cuba to Uruguay to serve as missionaries. Uruguayan Free Will Baptists invited the family to work with them to revive and stabilize the Malvin Norte congregation in the metropolitan area of Montevideo.

Gifts to the World Missions Offering assist efforts to reach the unreached in neighboring countries and around the world.

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Cross-Cultural Missions

Don Matchett

Cross-Cultural Missions

The World Missions Offering sponsors several cross-cultural mission projects. These projects reach into countries like Turkey, Uruguay, and Ghana, among others.

Through Free Will Baptist workers and our partners, we currently reach so deeply into unreached peoples we can no longer openly discuss some names or locations. If certain groups discovered them, those workers could not remain in the country. Or worse, they would be in great danger.

Would you pray for one particular pastor who has fled a middle-eastern country to hide in another middle-eastern country for his own safety?

Our Free Will Baptist brothers and sisters in other countries are mobilizing their own cross-cultural ministries, both locally and around the world. Participate in the World Missions Offering to assist in these efforts.

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