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Fruitful Work in Kazakhstan | July 2019

Dear friends,

Two EPC World Outreach church-planting teams began work in the former Soviet Union in the mid-1990s. One team planted Holy Trinity Church in southwestern Siberia. The other team planted a presbytery of churches in Kazakhstan – now known as the Evangelical Reformed Church (ERC). In March of this year these two church-planting streams converged in a wonderful way, and EPC World Outreach’s Ed and Nan McCallum were there to see it. 

For the past six years EPC World Outreach’s International Theological Education Network (ITEN) has partnered with Holy Trinity Church’s Reformed Bible School to train students to understand the whole story of the Bible, interpret it within its context, and apply it to seeking the lost. Just before Holy Trinity Church was received into the ERC, eighteen students from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan came to Holy Trinity for two intensive seminary classes – Theology 1 (taught by the director of Baltic Reformed Theological Seminary in Riga, Latvia), and Church Planting and Development (taught by Ed and Nan McCallum). This convergence of theology and church-planting was a wonderful picture of ITEN’s core mission – to train trainers who will equip their own people to live on mission for the Glory of God among the unreached. 

Holy Trinity and the other churches of the ERC are in many ways the children of EPC World Outreach. But they are adult children who dream of birthing their own children. ITEN has committed to partner with them in this “full-cycle church-planting”. Holy Trinity Church is working to launch an online classroom using Third Millenium’s Russian-language curriculum, and now has an experienced church-planter on staff focused on outreach to their neighbors with least access to the gospel. And the ERC churches in Kazakhstan are starting a network of house churches. This is reformed theology at its best – deep roots and strong, fruit-laden branches.

By Ed and Nan McCallum, ITEN Associate for Site and Program Management & ITEN Program Assistant

Community Life

More about the Kazakhstan Ministry

If you are interested in following the Kazakhstan ministry and learning how you can support our brothers and sisters in Christ through prayer, sign-up to receive Azim’s monthly email, as he and his family serve faithfully in this way. You can also watch this video to learn more about this ministry.

Give to the ERCK Project

If you feel called to support the development of the ERC in Kazakhstan as they continue to grow disciples, you can do so by clicking below.

Pray for the Tatar of Russia

The Tatar of Russia are an unreached people group in 11 countries, including Kazakhstan. To learn more about the Tatar, you can view our prayer card. If interested, we would be happy to send you several of these cards, to pass out to friends and church members. Simply email us below.

A Great Barrier to Evangelism | June 2019

Dear friends,

During my first trip to India I taught a course on the five solas of the Reformation. The national leaders who organized the event had reserved the upper room of a Catholic charity for the day and filled it with plastic lawn chairs. As I arrived early, I entered the hot and humid room to find several adults and their children sleeping on the concrete floor. After backing out of the room quietly I notified our national partners, who simply smiled. “They were so concerned that they might miss the teaching, they took a train here last night.” It is a moment I will never forget, and it is one that I speak about often as I try to help others understand the enormous need for theological education around the globe.

            At the very inception of the modern missionary enterprise, theological education and ministerial training have always been foundational values of global evangelization. From the historic 1910 World Missionary Conference in Scotland to the Third Lausanne Congress held a century later in Cape Town, South Africa, missionaries and scholars alike have long agreed that “The promotion of theological education is a life and death issue for Christianity.”

Recognizing such a need, Presbyterians in particular have often taken a lead role in the sphere of Christian education in global missions. From Ralph Winter’s groundbreaking and innovative Theological Education by Extension (TEE) program to more modern enterprises such as Richard Pratt’s Third Millennium Ministries, a Reformed perspective on global missions has often ensured a strong commitment to the holistic practice of ministering to the whole person – body, spirit, and mind.

      Sharing this same commitment, the EPC World Outreach charged Rev. Dr. Bruce Anderson with the task of forming The International Theological Education Network (ITEN) in 2010 with the goal of fulfilling the denomination’s commitment to full-cycle church planting – planting churches among the unreached who will plant churches among the unreached. Towards this end ITEN has had the privilege of watching the light of the knowledge of God to some of the most remote parts of the world including Pakistan, Siberia, Vietnam, and Myanmar.

            In each of these places we continue to hear the same refrain that while technology and globalization are making more education available to more people than ever before, it is still insufficient for the growing need. Time and time again we hear from national leaders that the greatest barrier to evangelism is not radical or fundamentalist forms of religion, but false teachers who are making it increasingly hard for people to know the difference between the gospel of health and wealth and the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is why the EPC continues to affirm that any vision for church planting is futile without the simultaneous training of leaders. As Makie Stiles stated recently at The Gospel Coalition 2019 national conference, “If you don’t know what a church is, you’re going to have a very hard time planting one.” Such is the conviction of ITEN and the EPC World Outreach who are eager to continue to embody the historical vision of global missions first given to us by Christ himself: make disciples and teach them (Matt. 28:19).

*Detrich Werner, ed. Challenges and Opportunities in Theological Education in the 21st Century(Edinburgh 2010: International study group on theological education, World Study Report, 2009), 81

By Dr. Steve Woodworth, ITEN Associate Coordinator

 

Community Life

ITEN Overview

Have 5 minutes? Watch this informative introductory video to ITEN and learn about their mission, vision, and strategies as a ministry arm of EPC World Outreach.

Mission Resources

Interested in the role of the North American Church or methods of church planting? Check out our Missions and Church Planting resource pages for  information and suggestions on these topics and more!

Third Millennium Ministries

Visit Thirdmill’s website to learn more about their mission to provide free biblical education throughout the world. In addition to an abundance of resources on theology and worship, they have free seminary courses available, for those interested!

Finding Someplace Different to Love Our Neighbors | May 2019

Dear friends,

In the first year of the EPC’s existence, denominational leaders gathered in Denver to create World Outreach, and invited the foremost Presbyterian missiologist of the time, Ralph Winter, to join them. Dr. Winter’s advice – “The easy places have already been taken; go to the hard places – the places where people don’t yet have any viable churches.”

Those early EPC leaders recognized God’s direction in Dr. Winter’s words, and thus EPC World Outreach was created with the mandate to go to hard places to tell the story of Jesus among a people who have not yet heard.  This is the same missionary vision articulated by the Apostle Paul.

“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” ~Romans 15:20 | New International Version (NIV)

Our desire is to not just go to difficult places, but to see fellowships of believers with qualified leaders sending out their own to start Christ-centered movements within other unreached people groups. The EPC has seen success in this area. In March, I had the privilege to be in Siberia and witness a key moment in the growth of churches planted through EPC World Outreach. The EPC “daughter” churches of Kazakhstan received the EPC “daughter” church in Siberia into their presbytery.  And on that same weekend, leaders of World Outreach’s International Theological Education Network (ITEN) were present helping to train future teaching and ruling elders! This is the story of sons and daughters of the EPC who have heard God’s calling to find someplace different to love their neighbor!  And this story continues…

In April, five more families were appointed as EPC missionaries. Each family has their story of God cultivating a call to go where Christ is not yet known.

In all their stories we see similar themes: God still calling EPC sons and daughter to go beyond their own US neighborhoods; seeds for mission cultivated along the way by faithful EPC Pastors and the EPC covenant family at large; and a deep love for neighbors that tells them about Jesus and helps them to grow through Bible study in a fellowship of believers. We hope many of you can meet these new appointees soon at General Assembly, at Presbytery meetings, or by inviting them to come to your church. We believe it won’t be long before they are in a very different neighborhood, among many people who have not heard the story and love of Jesus Christ.

What about you? Is God nudging you to find someplace different to love your neighbor?

By Shawn Stewart, EPC World Outreach Mobilization Coordinator

Community Life

A Message from John Piper

Listen to this quick word from John Piper about how each and every one of us were made to embrace the “global dimension of missional living”.

Free Family Resource from Weave

Download these free family devotionals from Weave, created to walk your family through the word of God, and His heart for the nations, over the course of a year.

Learn about Our New Appointees!

World Outreach recently welcomed five new families as appointees. Click here to learn more about how you can support them financially and with prayer.  

Learn about Our New Appointees!

World Outreach recently welcomed five new families as appointees. Click here to learn more about how you can support them financially and with prayer.

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship | April 2019


Dear friends,

The Islamic Center of Johnson County is located directly across the street from the library I frequent. So for two full years I had prayed for the people there and had felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to pull into the parking lot and talk to someone. And for two full years I didn’t. Which is fairly troublesome for a pastor who claims to support and encourage missions.

The Holy Spirit had also convicted me to reach out to Muslims in my area, but I had no idea how to start. I had met dozens of our EPC missionaries who had traveled to faraway places in order to share their faith with people who were indifferent at best, and governments who did not want them there. Yet how many Muslims had moved right into my backyard – people who were much more accessible (in every sense of the word) than those in foreign countries.

Enter Mark. Mark had introduced the concept of reaching Muslims to our presbytery (Great Plains) and moreover, to me, personally. Mark and I had been forming a good friendship over the years because of our mutual desire to see God reach the unreached.

For at least the last year Mark and I had tried several times to go to ICJC in Overland Park so that I could take that first step and meet some Muslims there. Finally the day had come and we walked in together to a midday prayer time (Salat al-zhur). Mark was his usual calm, yet gregarious self; I was beyond nervous, yet thrilled to finally initiate this first step, and so we began to converse with several men after they had finished their prayer time. They were quite gracious and receptive to our presence and interest.

Although at times it was somewhat awkward – as you might expect – Mark paved the way toward good relations by simply sharing personal information, asking questions and appreciating their faith in various ways: Mark: “That’s a beautiful prayer rug. Did that come from overseas or from here in the US?” Reply: “Yes, this came from Turkey!” Mark: “How many different countries are represented at your mosque?” Reply: “Somewhere between 30-35 countries. Therefore, we have to conduct our services in English.” And on it went.

After 20 minutes or so we were actually exchanging phone numbers and email addresses – which, I must admit, freaked me out more than a little! And yet, there again was the Lord’s peace, joy and purpose – that feeling of being stretched far out of my comfort zone and right where God wants to take me; and not just for me, but so that I could eventually invite others to this engaging process, this clarion call to honor and obey him. Which I am now beginning to do.

Over the course of time following our initial encounter, I then pursued a relationship with the imam of that mosque. Mr. D and I now meet weekly to continue our friendship and learn from one another about the commonalities and differences of our respective religions. Over the last three years I have learned as much about my own faith as I have about his faith. My favorite encounter was the time that Mr. D told me that our Christian religion is unfair. He explained that, as a Muslim, he will stand alone before God to be judged; but that we believed that Jesus would stand with us to pay for our sins. After I thought for a moment, I replied, “You know, you’re right.  That’s not fair…that’s what we call grace.”

Mark’s example and leadership, including walking with me into the mosque, has stretched me in my faith, and also emboldened me to lead my friends, family and congregation in the same way. Our church – Lighthouse Church in Paola, KS – has now completed our first Bridges Course with a good degree of success. And I believe that the Lord will continue to not only make us more aware of Muslims around us, but He will move us to initiate bridges of friendship with many in order to win some.

by Brad Buescher, Executive Pastor of Lighthouse Presbyterian Church 

Community Life

Meet Pastor Mark

Interested in hearing more about Mark and how he shares the love of Christ with Muslims? Read his blog or visit his youtube channel!

COMMA Consultation 2019

Attend COMMA 2019 and become better equipped to reach and share with Muslims here, in our own neighborhoods.

World Outreach Events at GA

EPC World Outreach is sponsoring numerous gatherings at the 39th General Assembly. Check out our schedule here – we’d love to see you!

Musings from Syria | March 2019

Dear friends,

What would it take for you to stay in Syria over the past seven years?

I found myself silently asking that question…of myself…during a recent visit to Syria. I was there with the Outreach Foundation. A group that grew from Presbyterian roots and continues to partner with Reformed and Presbyterian ministries around the world.

Unknown to many, Syria was a mission field of the Presbyterians way back in the mid-1800s. As a result, a group of about 35 Presbyterian churches split between Lebanon and is there today. We were there to visit those churches in Syria, expressing solidarity and partnership from their US Presbyterian brothers and sisters.

Our group met in Beirut, drove straight to Damascus and immediately hopped a small plane to the far northeast of the country, a town called Qamishli. Arriving there, I learned that Qamishli is the “new town” version of Nisibis—an ancient center of theology and spirituality of the Church of the East. Though the Christian community is small there today, the roots of Christianity in Qamishli date to shortly after Pentecost.

Pastor Firas met us at the Qamishli airport, leading his American friends through a maze of Syrian onlookers, surprised no doubt to see so many American faces in a land that had so long been deprived of foreign visitors.

Pastor Firas caught my attention from the start. I suppose part of that was because he was a graduate of the seminary where I taught in Lebanon. Though he graduated before I arrived, I was still eager to see the fruit of that seminary. I discovered he and his wife were both from another town, closer to the capital, but had moved to this remote area because the church there needed a pastor. In fact, there were three churches in the area that needed a pastor and, yes, he served all three, driving the hour plus to the two other churches to offer preaching, sacraments, and pastoral care.

Pastor Firas Farah and his wife, Silva

He stayed through the war, raising his two sons in the midst of it all. His lovely wife served us and the people of her church with contagious joy. Pastor Firas with his quick humor, easy-going smile, and proven commitment to his people, had won their undying loyalty.

Though half of the congregation left Syria during the recent crisis, the rest carried on, anticipating that more would join in…that the church of Jesus would not die, but live and fulfill its mission in Syria. We hoped our visit might encourage that outlook of faith.

More than anything else, their mission has been staying.

Of course, “staying” does not qualify as “mission” in every place, but in northern Syria, in the aftermath of the bloody Syrian crisis at the hands of ISIS and other factions, staying is a step of courage, close to defiance. They rejected an easy escape route to hold forth the hope of the gospel in their homeland. “Staying” has been their mission and I hope others will “go” to join them.

“Mission.” I went to Syria looking for how the church was engaging in mission. As often happens to me when engaging with the Middle Eastern church, my categories were stretched and my vision enlarged. I think the church would say that all they did – the kid’s clubs, the school they operated (900+ kids with 95% of the student body being Muslim), the weekly cycle of meetings for prayer and Bible study – they would say all of it is their mission. The people of the Qamishli Presbyterian Church are constantly face-to-face with Muslims – Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites, and others. They are their neighbors, colleagues, clients, and friends.

I’m glad those Presbyterians back in the 1800s had the foresight to plant churches in Syria. While the media portrays Syria as a post-war waste-land, I discovered abundant life there, like Easter flowers pushing through a crusty topsoil. There are communities ministering to their society, tempering evil, offering hope, preaching a gospel of reconciliation for all. Staying in Syria.

by Mike Kuhn, ITEN Specialist for Missional Theology and Practice

Community Life

Syrian Refugee Relief Fund

EPC has launched an emergency relief fund to help Syrian refugees with their physical and spiritual needs. To learn more about this fund, click here.

A Presbyterian Mandate

Discover how the history of Reformed missionaries in the Middle East provides both a platform and a clarion call to invite Muslims to follow Jesus.

Syria Trip Blog

Mike and the Outreach Foundation team have a lot more to say about their trip to Syria. You can access the team blog here to read more about their visit.