Pioneering

Nomads by Faith

The following (lightly edited) is a journal entry written by a Navigator who, along with his wife and small children, is pioneering a work in Asia.

Photo courtesy of Leio McLaren

Photo courtesy of Leio McLaren

The day finally came. We sold our house and left many possessions behind. We said goodbye to family and friends and boarded a jet to Asia.

By faith, says Hebrews 11:8-9, Abraham obeyed and went out. By faith he lived in the land of promise.

Like Abraham, there is so much we don’t know. But we know the important things: God, His promises, and His calling on our lives. So, we obeyed and set our course toward the nation that we were to receive as an inheritance, an inheritance shared with Jesus himself (Psalm 2:8).

Now we’re here. Now we live here. This isn’t like one of our past visits. It feels different. On day one, we didn’t get out to see famous places. Instead, we unpacked, journeyed to the local market, and started figuring things out: SIM cards, house help, where to get food. Lunch was bread and eggs stored in a minimally stocked fridge. Everything seems slow.

The kids are getting into new routines. Baths happen in a plastic tub. The inevitable spilling leaves the bathroom floor wet. For them, continuity is found in their toy trains and blocks, and their favorite lullaby app. But their world is different: new beds, a rooftop to run on, muddy streets swarming with people.

On our way to do some shopping yesterday, we got caught behind a street parade celebrating a local deity. Our son, imagining the parade he’d seen at home, said, “Maybe see big horsey.” We tried to brace him for the fact that there probably wouldn’t be any horses. Well, there were two large, white horses pulling a decorated parade wagon! We even got a picture next to the horses. What an amazing sign of God’s goodness to our child.

The parade progressed slowly. With thousands of people lining the jam-packed streets, we couldn’t exactly pass by. So, we walked a little, ducked into stores, and then walked again. Finally arriving at the market, we tromped through the mud buying potatoes, onions, bell peppers, and other supplies as the kids tried to make sense of it all.

By faith we are living in the land of promise. It is, for us, a foreign land. The meaning of the deity’s parade was bewildering. Finding food is like hunting for treasure. Communication is confusing. The flavors are new and strange. Household routines are unfamiliar. Our local friends are as yet few. We don’t belong here, but it’s our land of promise.

By faith we are living in tents. Even as we set up this apartment, we realize that it’s temporary. We might live here for a month, maybe six months, maybe even a year. But it won’t be long. We’ll move on soon, like nomads who pack up their tents night after night. Nothing we like about this place will remain with us forever. Everything we dislike will not endure without end.

Even in our temporary state, we are assured of what we hope for and certain of things not yet seen. God will bring to pass His promises for the nations here. Our labor is not in vain. God will fulfill His purpose for us in our generation. God has prepared good works for us to walk into. All the nations will worship and glorify the name of Jesus. Our lives are in transition, but the Gospel will endure forever.

Tea with an Enemy

By Our Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

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Scores of refugees, fleeing violence and oppression, crowd into sprawling, poor regions of the Middle East seeking to survive each day.

In one area, a wealthy believer had it on his heart to deliver food and supplies to the refugees encamped miles outside his city. He needed help, so he contacted Anwar (not his real name), who is now a Navigator leader.

Anwar was hesitant. The region was far away. He and his team had no experience with refugees, and he knew that terrorists often lived among them. Taking food and supplies could be extremely dangerous.

Anwar’s fears were heightened by his past experiences. One of his friends, a 50-year-old widower in his ministry, had been killed because of his faith in Christ, leaving his children orphaned. Anwar has been taking care of the children ever since they lost their father. As a result, Anwar sometimes receives death threats.

Despite the risks, Anwar spoke to his team about taking the food and supplies into the refugee areas. They prayed and read the Scriptures, seeking God’s guidance. God led them to Leviticus 19:33-34, which says, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

“God hit me with that verse,” said Anwar. “We knew that we had to serve these people.”

Anwar and his team started visiting the refugees twice a week, delivering water and food. Fearful, Anwar at first told the team not to talk about Jesus. But they gradually felt more comfortable and decided to pray with people in their makeshift homes.

In one of these homes they met a man who was known to have been a former terrorist leader. His face was weathered. His eyes expressed his soul’s heaviness, the guilt of serving dark causes. The conversation was superficial and brief, but Anwar told the man that he was a Christian. He even gave the man his phone number.

About four days later, Anwar received a phone call from the former terrorist. He pleaded for Anwar and his team to return to his home because he had had a vision about God and wanted to know more. “Honestly, I was very afraid,” said Anwar about that phone call. “I was worried that he was inviting us into a trap.”

Anwar told his team about the phone call and asked for counsel. What should they do? After much prayer, they decided to accept the man’s invitation. Trembling with fear, Anwar and the team headed back into the refugee area and approached the man’s door. He greeted them warmly and they entered the house. As the man served tea, Anwar watched every move suspiciously, praying for God’s protection.

“He started to tell us about the dream,” said Anwar. “It was about God. God was pressing him and convicting him of his sin, calling him to seek forgiveness for all he had done. He told us in tears that he had killed many people. And he looked me in the eye and asked, ‘Can Jesus forgive me?’”

Anwar and the team shared scripture with the man, assuring him that Jesus had paid for his sin on the cross, and that if he gave his life to Jesus he would be forgiven. That very day, the once-hardened and violent terrorist accepted Jesus as his Lord.

“Today that man can’t stop talking about Jesus to everyone around him,” Anwar said. “He’s having a major influence among the other refugees.”

Please pray for Anwar and other Navigators in the Middle East as they boldly take the Gospel message of Jesus and His kingdom to the hard-to-reach places.

Reaching the Hard Places

By Alan Ch'ng

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After more than 80 years of cutting-edge missions work, Navigators around the world continue to carry the Gospel into hard places and cultures. During our International Forum, we saw God again calling us to pursue the “high-hanging fruit,” the people who are most difficult to reach.
 
God deeply loves broken and lost people. Many are trapped in the darkness of major religions and philosophies such as Buddhism, Islam, Western materialism, and Hinduism. Others are living in faraway rural areas that are difficult to access. The population of refugees in the world continues to grow exponentially as nations are destroyed by wars and genocide. Millions live in urban slums under the threat of drug violence and human trafficking.
 
These people desperately need the Gospel, but to reach them is not comfortable. It requires tremendous courage, calling, and training to bring God’s love to these populations.
 
Because the barriers are so great, most Christian missions efforts focus on going to the “low-hanging fruit”—people who are generally receptive to the Gospel. As our regional director for Asia-Pacific demonstrated during the International Forum, about 90 percent of all Christian missionary resources goes to reaching this “low-hanging fruit.”
 
Although it is good to invest our energy in those who are easiest to reach, the Gospels show us that Jesus frequently served the high-hanging fruit. In Matthew 8, we see him helping a leper—a man who would have been considered grotesque in that time. He helped a Samaritan woman even though both Samaritans and women were demeaned within the Roman culture. He healed the blind and infirm, gave dignity to the poor and prostitutes, and embraced the marginalized.
 
During the forum, we heard from many Navigators who are seeking to reach the high-hanging fruit. In the Philippines, Navigators are serving the poor and rescuing prostitutes in the slums of Manila. In many parts of Europe and the Middle East, Navigator teams are bringing the love of Jesus to refugee communities. In Malawi, God is using Navigators to advance the Gospel among the rural poor. An American group called I-58 (based on Isaiah 58) is addressing the needs of the under-served urban communities in the United States. And many Navigators are penetrating the major religions in places like India, China, the Middle East and Africa.
 
Despite the barriers, we continue to see the effectiveness of our Navigator DNA. This DNA includes whole-life personal discipleship, investing in relational and family networks, promoting deep engagement with the Scriptures, fueling our efforts through prayer and focusing on spiritual generations.
 
But we also recognize that we must find new ways of ministering in each context. God is giving us wisdom, freedom, and creative ideas to overcome the challenges that make it hard to reach the high-hanging fruit. The Scriptures and the Holy Spirit continue to lead us forward.
 
As Isaiah 42:16 says, “And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.”

Alan Ch’ng is an International Vice President. Before joining the International Executive Team, Alan led our Asia-Pacific Region for more than six years. Alan and his wife, Connie, moved to Colorado Springs in April 2013. They have three grown sons.

Onward to Sierra Leone

By Alan Ch'ng

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On a recent visit to Ghana, my wife Connie and I were picked up at the airport by Richard and Georgina Baa-Poku and their eight-year-old daughter Rinnah. We were excited to meet them and eager to hear more about their plans for the future. You see, Richard and Georgina are gearing up to pioneer a cross-cultural effort to reach Sierra Leone with the Gospel.

Richard is an established architect, having worked in his profession for 13 years. Georgina worked in the tourism industry and now has her own business. In the midst of family and work, Richard helps give leadership to a couple of Navigator student ministries in Accra, Ghana.

As we got to know them, a question began popping up in my mind: What led Richard and Georgina to decide to leave their country, their people, their household and their professions in order to move to Sierra Leone?

The process began in about 2010. With support from the Africa Regional Leadership Team, Richard made several survey trips into Sierra Leone and found that God was working ahead of them. During that first visit, Richard was moved by both the openness to the Gospel among the people and by the poverty and difficult living conditions in Sierra Leone. He could see that God was working in their hearts, but there was a shortage of help.

Then, on his third visit to Sierra Leone, Richard brought Georgina along. God helped them connect with a young woman who was eager to grow in Christ and learn more about the Bible with the help of Richard and Georgina. A discipleship relationship was established between them.

As Connie and I got to know them, three factors for their decision became clear to us. First, God was working in their hearts because of the poverty in Sierra Leone. The crowds were harassed and helpless. Second, they experienced among those they met a sincere longing for and openness to the Gospel. Third, at about the same time, God was speaking to them through Psalm 2:8, which says, Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

Compelled by these three factors, Richard and Georgina decided to launch a two-year plan to relocate to Sierra Leone. As with any pioneering effort, there are many unknowns. This is uncharted territory. They are honest about the fact that they don’t have all the details figured out. But they are moving forward in courageous faith. As Georgina says, “We will trust God for jobs and for support.”

One thing is sure: It will take a team of friends and mentors to help them be fruitful. Navigators in Ghana are engaged in the process. The Africa regional leaders are also involved. Connie and I had many opportunities to talk with Richard and Georgina about all that is involved in making such a faith move. We were able to help them understand more about what the Scriptures teach about pioneering missions.

It thrilled my heart to see laborers like Richard and Georgina, working professionals doing well in their jobs, respond to the call of God to step into cross-cultural missions. There is still much preparation between now and when this family can move to Sierra Leone. But it is exciting to see them stepping out in faith and obeying God.

The story of Richard and Georgina represents many Navigators who are pioneering new ministries all over the world. In fact, there are some 65 countries in which we have pioneering ministries. We thank God for each and every one of the precious people who have modeled faith and obedience in this way.

Please pray for Richard, Georgina and Rinnah. And, if you are interested in praying for other missionary efforts in our Worldwide Partnership around the globe, you can find a prayer list for each region at this link.

Alan Ch’ng is an International Vice President. Before joining the International Executive Team, Alan led our Asia-Pacific Region for more than six years. Alan and his wife, Connie, moved to Colorado Springs in April 2013. They have three grown sons.