An old paradigm for missions divided Christians into two categories: goers and senders. The people who went gave up their careers to overseas mission work, and those who stayed behind sent prayers and money to aid them on their journey. For the most part, that was where their connection ended.
The ease of communications and travel in our modern world means that goers and senders can fulfill the Great Commission in more unified ways. In this new era, we’re seeing that we can go further when we go together.
Missions Mobilizer John Harrison is finding new ways to connect the goers and senders in the Encompass family. This summer he’s mobilizing recent college graduates Nick and Adam 1 to Central Asia to assist Dan and Ellen 1 in their business-as-mission work. The result will be a three-stranded relationship between career missionaries, Encompass support staff, and local church members, all of whom are working together to increase their kingdom impact.
This innovative collaboration started when Nick and Adam attended their college’s missions focus weekends and stopped by John’s booth. They were intrigued to discover that the Information Technologies (IT) degrees they were about to complete were ideally suited to what was needed in Dan and Ellen’s Central Asian city. They found they could serve as short-term missionaries, investigate whether God might be calling them to further missions work, and develop the professional skills they learned in college—all at the same time.
These internships will shape Nick and Adam as they look to their future careers, and their assistance will further Dan and Ellen’s current work. John says, “These guys are graduating with a wealth of current knowledge on systems and programs. IT is a field that progresses so fast, and these young interns have a lot of contemporary skill to offer.”
Nick and Adam will be able to teach Dan some of the latest technologies and software. And Dan will be able to delegate tasks that will free him to pursue relationship building, all while helping to hone Nick and Adam's skills with real-world experience.
The era of siloed mission work, with each worker separated from all the others, is quickly fading, and a new world of opportunities to work together has opened up. Missionaries are leveraging the skills of people in local churches in the states. Individual church members are expanding their kingdom impact by serving in ways that utilize their professional skills. And Encompass staff members have the incredible privilege of seeing it all come together.
This strategic initiative requires each of us to examine what role God might have for us in world missions.
Each of us has an opportunity to do more to fulfill God’s Great Commission—what will you do to Go Further Together with us?
1 Not their real names.Continue...
Jesus urged his disciples to count the cost of following him, concluding with the words, “Anyone of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33, ESV). Most of us haven’t paid a very high price for our faith, but in the Central Asian country where Encompass missionaries Dan and Ellen1 serve, it’s not an overstatement to say that when people decide to follow Jesus, they lose everything.
They first lose their family. The relationships they hold most dear are taken away. It’s not uncommon for converts to be kidnapped and held hostage by their families in hopes that they will renounce their faith in Christ—and if they refuse, all contact is broken off. Then they’re isolated from the community to the point that they’re no longer able to conduct business and make a living. In a culture where professional life depends almost entirely on who you know, the effects of converting to a minority faith are often devastating.
In this environment, churches struggle to survive, let alone thrive. Job scarcity has led to mass migration, compounding the problem. Ten years ago the biggest church in Dan and Ellen’s city had about 130 members. Attendance has shrunk to 25. Dan asks, “If a church loses its leaders and the stable, serving families go, how can it grow?”
Dan and Ellen believe that one answer to the church’s challenges lies in helping members start businesses. They offer coaching and technological support to help convert ideas to strategic plans, and they craft strategies to help fund business ventures.
Ongoing technological business support is a vital component of the work, which creates a platform for building relationships over time. Dan describes it this way: “We want believers to stay in hard-to-live areas and to help them make disciples through their businesses, and technological systems help that.”
One such project has been to help pastors in surrounding villages run a side business of selling chicken feed and providing expertise on raising chickens. The service they provide is so vital to the local economy that Muslims are willing to work with them, and some are even open to hearing about their faith in the process.
Dan has also helped a local Christian gym owner turn his failing business around. Once in danger of closing, the gym has doubled its profits and recently hired more employees. Although the gym has lost customers because of its Christian reputation, they have also seen customers return from time to time, and business is currently healthy.
Dan and Ellen want to help start two locally-run businesses per year, and they’re positioned well to meet that goal. In fact, their business-for-the-church model has been so effective that Christians from surrounding countries are now asking if they can come help with projects.
“They can see that it’s working, and they want to use their abilities to help,” Dan says. “With this model, I feel like we’ve put in a little work and seen a lot of results. It gives me a lot of hope for the church going forward.”
A healthy economy contributes to a healthy church. As people are able to make a living, they are able to offer their time, talent, and treasure to their church communities. Dan and Ellen’s creative mission model is contributing to the local culture, the local economy, and the local church—a triple-win in a challenging environment for ministry.
1 Not their real names.Continue...
Last week was our team’s fourth time visiting a migrant's home in the city. The other visits had been more random. But this time, we wanted to intentionally choose a person, approach them, and invite them to tea. As we approached a woman, I watched as the Father blessed our selection.Continue...
Sometimes when we set out to serve others, we end up more challenged and inspired by those we serve than they are by us. In those moments, we discover the truth of Jesus’ words, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Encompass missionary Ginger Hock has experienced this lesson many times in her 14 years of service in the Central African Republic.Continue...
“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.”—Psalm 82:3. Those of us living in the US may look for ways to apply this verse to our lives. But for many people around the world, orphan care is a daily reality, one that appears on their doorstep and sits around their dinner table. One place that is especially true is in the Central African Republic.Continue...