Can a hungry belly hear the Gospel? | July 2020

Dear friends,

 

Over the last several years, I have helped run a clinic for Arab refugees who have flooded our Middle Eastern country. Once these refugees arrive, the support infrastructure is corrupt and overloaded as thousands receive little help with a $42 monthly stipend to live. Our Arab-church based clinic has been able to offer free medicine for basic chronic health needs; during COVID-19, we’ve also started a monthly food voucher program for local fruits and vegetables.

As we serve this community, we have wrestled with the issue of how to integrate relief work with sharing the gospel. We are surrounded by desperate needs, and wonder if people only listen to our message because they know they will receive something. Is it wrong for them to have mixed motives? Do I come before the Lord with mixed motives? I have been challenged to think about how a hungry belly can hear the gospel when you look in the eyes of such desperate needs. It’s striking one of Jesus’ most famous miracles was feeding the 5,000 while preaching the kingdom stories.

 
Is it okay for motives to be tainted and yet still open the door for the gospel truth of Jesus?  Recently, a friend was passing out the food vouchers on a home visit.  The Yemeni refugee woman’s eyes filled with tears as she said she had dreamed the night before her small children had a table full of fruits and vegetables after two days without food.  She said, “God truly knows me.”  For a Muslim woman to realize this opens a powerful door for the gospel.

Another Sudanese refugee man was sitting on the steep stairs which line the hills of an urban low-income housing area.  He looked up at me as I approached with bewilderment.  I gave him his hypertensive medication as well as food vouchers.  He told me, “I just prayed and asked God if he cared about me.  You came walking down these stairs and gave me these gifts.”  This man began to gently weep of the ways the Lord had answered his desperate prayer after months of unemployment and despair.  He and his wife have been studying scriptures with us for over a year.

Isaiah 58:10 challenges us to meet the physical need as a way to usher in the opportunity to be a light for the spiritual need.  There is a partnership.

 
“Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be bright as noon.”
Can a hungry belly hear the gospel? Of course, our Savior can break through at any time. However, when people experience the Lord as one who meets their most basic needs, the diminishing physical ache allows them to be able to engage with the spiritual need for the light of the Gospel!
 
 
 
By a EPC WO global worker

Community Life

The Path - World Relief

If you want to see an end to extreme poverty, violence, oppression, and mass displacement, consider joining World Relief’s The Path. The Path is a monthly giving community of like-minding people who are committed to helping the most vulnerable. Watch a video about The Path here.

Displaced People in the Middle East

Watch this video and learn more about how you can pray specifically for refugees in the Middle East. 

Support Syrian Refugee Relief

Join the EPC in working with church partners in Lebanon, Turkey, and Germany to not only assist refugees with physical needs, but also to share the gospel to meet their spiritual needs. Donations to this fund will help with the Syrian refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe. 

The Power of Forgiveness | June 2020

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”
-Matthew 6:12

Dear friends,

Our work at the youth center in Africa gives us so many opportunities to walk alongside those God puts in our path. A group of girls who play sports together at the youth center began meeting with our teammate, Assay, to discuss topics relevant to their lives. During a discussion on forgiveness, Assay asked the girls if there was anyone who had hurt them, but that they hadn’t yet forgiven. Many of the girls shared stories, but one girl, Heyab, who was 15 and in grade 9, began crying instead.

After the other girls had gone, Heyab stayed behind to tell Assay about her father. When Hayeb was young, her parents separated and so she had grown up without knowing her father. When she realized he was remarried, with another family, she began to hate him. Her mother tried to convince Heyab to forgive her father, but Heyab couldn’t do it. She said to her mother, “You are beautiful and a good person. How could he do this to us?” Her father sent them money and gifts on the holidays, but Heyab wouldn’t accept them. Sometimes her father came to visit, but Heyab refused to see him. Heyab didn’t want to forgive her father.

As they sat and talked, Heyab asked Assay how she could forgive someone who did something like this. And so, Assay shared her own story – a very similar story to the one Heyab had lived. Heyab couldn’t believe it! She hadn’t expected Assay to understand. Assay told her that if she wasn’t ready to forgive her father – it was okay. But she encouraged Heyab to think about the many fathers who left their families, didn’t think of them at all, didn’t help them at all, even if they did have money – men who just wanted to live their own lives. And to think of God, who had forgiven her.

The next week when they got together, Heyab said, “Assay, forgiveness is so hard. Even though you encouraged me to think about forgiving, I still hate him. I don’t even want to think about forgiving him.” They talked a little more, but Heyab headed home again, without forgiving.

Every day, our team meets for prayer and Assay had been sharing Heyab’s struggles to forgive, and we had been praying for her. Over the next few weeks, Assay was starting to get excited, because she could see that God was beginning to open Heyab’s heart.

A week later, Heyab came to Assay again. “Assay, you were right! There are such worse stories – we are lucky to have his love and support even though he has another family. And how can God forgive me, if I don’t forgive my father? I don’t know if I’m ready to talk to him, but I’m ready to forgive him.”

Assay told her, “You need to forgive him from your heart. I’m sure that God will help you.”

The next time her father called her mom, she said hello from Heyab.  After that, Heyab talked to him on the phone, herself, several times. After their fourth conversation, she finally decided to see him. Going with her mom, she sat down with her father and said that she forgave him. There was reconciliation!

Now whenever her father calls, or visits, she talks with him. Before the last holiday, her father bought her a really beautiful dress, and, for the first time, she accepted it. She is getting to know her two younger half-sisters.

The power of forgiveness has transformed Heyab’s life and provides a good example for the other girls, too.  Heyab has learned that forgiveness from the heart, starts first with understanding the heart of God and his unmerited grace, mercy, and forgiveness through the power and shadow of the cross.

Written by an EPC WO Global Worker

Community Life

Ask Pastor John

Can you forgive someone who has not confessed their wrongdoing towards you? Listen to John Piper’s explanation on how forgiveness is a fruit of our union to Christ.

Strength to Love

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love,” – Martin Luther King, Jr. Read more of this sermon, “Loving Your Enemies”, in his book Strength to Love.

Understanding Muslims

There are many resources avaliable on our website that offer opportunities to learn more about God’s heart for our Muslim neighbors and dispel myths about Islam.

A Privileged Opportunity | August 2019

Dear friends,

S* has become one of my closest friends, a man who inspires me with his example of living missionally. I first met S and A, his wife, in August 2015, while preaching at Faith Church. I noticed this South Asian family enter the back of the sanctuary and made a point to seek them out after the service and learn about their story. Breakfast later that week began a journey of getting to know one another, becoming dear friends, and serving together in God’s mission.

S and A are Bangladeshi immigrants that model a missional lifestyle by reaching out in friendship, service, and with the gospel to the many Muslim immigrants around them in metro-Detroit. By the time I met them, S had already shared the gospel with hundreds of Muslims, led a handful from Yemen and Bangladesh to faith in Christ, and started Bible studies with new believers and interested Muslims.

When talking with S at breakfast in August 2015, he expressed that he was called by God to reach the Muslim immigrants where he lived and plant churches among them, but he didn’t want to do it independently; he wanted to be connected and accountable to the church. S had already served as a missionary with Wycliffe, planted two house churches in Bangladesh, and led many Muslims within metro-Detroit to faith in Christ. Was there a place for him in the EPC? I was committed to finding one.

S and A became members of Faith Church (EPC) and, under the oversight of our Session, were commissioned to start a movement of house churches among the Muslim peoples of Detroit. Faith Church and sister churches of our presbytery began working alongside S and A by teaching English, visiting in Muslim homes, helping with service projects, and sharing the gospel. We were blessed to work alongside S and A and graciously challenged by their missionary way of life. 

During this time, God burdened S with the plight of Rohingya refugees. He made several trips to Bangladesh to visit them in their squalid conditions in the world’s largest refugee camp. In the last few years, S has helped dozens of Muslims come to faith in Christ, baptized many new believers in Bangladesh, started three house churches in Bangladesh, one in Detroit, and plans to establish another in Windsor, Ontario (across the river from Detroit) before the end of 2019. Recognizing God’s calling, EPC World Outreach appointed S and A as missionaries, splitting their time between metro-Detroit and Bangladesh.

Is there a place for him in the EPC? Yes. Absolutely! But he doesn’t tick the traditional boxes. He’s an immigrant who hasn’t been to the traditional schools. He’s learning American and EPC culture and needs people to champion his ministry and open doors to churches for him. But S and A are some of the most faithful disciples of Jesus I have ever met. I pray EPC churches will see the gift God has given them in S and A, celebrate their ministry, and support it so that the gospel continues to “ring out through them” in Detroit, Windsor, and Bangladesh (1 Thess 1:8). It is a privileged opportunity to join with them in what God is doing here and around the world.

*Names removed for safety and security.

By Steven Sage, former Senior Pastor of Faith Church, Rochester Hills, Michigan

 

Community Life

Summer Mission Jam Reflection

In early July, students and youth leaders participated in EPC World Outreach’s first Summer Mission Jam. Watch this video and hear  from them as they reflect on the trip and how it impacted their thinking. For the safety and security of our global partners, this video is password secured. Click the button below to request the password.

Support Sh and An

If S and A’s story resonates with you and you would like to support them as they spread the Gospel in metro-Detroit and Bangladesh, click the button below.

Pray for the Rohingya in Bangladesh

The Rohingya are a stateless, unreached people group residing in three countries, including Bangladesh. If you feel called to pray for them, or are interested in learning more, take a look at our prayer card. We would be happy to send you several of these cards, to pass out to friends and church members, as well. Simply email us below.

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.