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GROW-ing the Gospel | September 2019

Dear friends,

Amina* was desperate, alone, and vulnerable.  Sharing a tiny Beirut apartment with several other families and separated from a husband searching for work in Turkey, she needed a safe place to leave her child while she looked for work. Somehow, she found the GROW Center, a preschool designed for the children of the most desperate – single mothers, migrant domestic workers, and refugees.

The GROW Center employs local Christian women who boldly exhibit the love of Christ. The Center’s teachers use Bible stories, Christian songs, and prayer time to share Christ and His love. While students develop cognitively, socially, and spiritually, parents receive positive mentoring from a social worker and staff, and the whole family receives quality health care and training from a nurse. Since the Center is staffed by local Christian women (some of them Syrian refugees themselves), it’s also training women how to run a business in their own country.

When Amina arrived and told her story she was overjoyed to hear that yes, there was a spot for her daughter in the two-year-old class. And then the Coordinator asked to pray for Amina in the name of Jesus Christ – for a job, an apartment of her own, and a job for her husband in Beirut, so they could be a family again. Amina, a Muslim, felt the love of Christ as she listened intently to the prayer. Several months later, she came back into the Coordinator’s office, beaming, to share the good news: a job for her, a job for her husband, and an apartment for the family!  The power of answered prayer brought her husband to the Center later, where he too received prayer in Jesus’ name.

The GROW Center’s founder, Dr. Robert Hamd of EPC World Outreach, says Amina’s story shows how the Center’s early childhood development programs and adult mentoring programs make a huge gospel impact on the Syrian refugees, migrant workers, and underserved Lebanese communities of Beirut.
Our vision is to replicate GROW Centers in other underserved areas of Lebanon; we believe investing in early childhood development and adult mentoring makes good missional sense. If you would like to learn more about Philemon Project’s GROW Center ministry, check out www.thephilemonproject.org or email philemonproject@me.com.

*Amina’s name changed to protect identity
Written in coordination with Dr. Robert Hamd

Read past issues here.

Community Life

GROW Center Update

To learn more about the Philemon Project and their GROW Center ministry, read their summer update by clicking the button below!

Support the GROW Center

If Amina and Yurina’s story resonates with you, we’d encourage you to consider supporting the Philemon Project as they work to replicate the GROW Center and impact more families with the love of Christ. Click the button to give.

Pray for the Syrian Refugees of Lebanon

If you feel called to pray for the Syrian Refugees of Lebanon or are interested in learning more, take a look at our prayer card. We would be happy to send these to you to pass out to friends and church members, as well. Simple click the button to email us.

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.

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.

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.

Praying for Spiritual Breakthrough | February 2019

Dear friends,

In 2001 the EPC had high hopes for a new project. We sent a team of EPC families led by Greg and Sally Livingstone to live and work among the 17+ million Malays of Malaysia who were without a single church reaching their own people. 13 years later the Pacific Presbytery (now Pacific Northwest) adopted the Malay of Malaysia as their Engage 2025 focus, and began partnership with the reconstituted WO church-planting team led by Jeff and Lynn.

In 2016 we looked back at our fifteen years of costly, difficult work and inventoried the results – we had zero churches, zero Bible studies, and zero conversions! Our global workers in Malaysia were fulfilling their responsibilities – learning language well, sharing their faith, and inviting Malay neighbors to discover God in the Bible — but there was zero response.

So, in the fall of 2016 World Outreach called our brothers and sisters throughout EPC churches to a Year of Prayer for Spiritual Breakthrough Among the Malay. At almost the same time a visionary Chinese Malaysian pastor, Raymond Koh, began to lead a national movement of Malaysian Christians (from Chinese, Indian and Tribal ethnicities) to pray for the same thing. We waited expectantly for the breakthrough ….

On February 13, 2017, Pastor Koh was abducted out of his automobile in broad daylight, in full view of private CCTV cameras. He has not been heard or seen since. Sadly, much of the Malaysian Christian momentum for spiritual breakthrough among the Malay was lost, but at Jeff’s urging “to fill the gap” EPC World Outreach led a denomination-wide recommitment to prayer for the Malay.

Last year short-term teams from the Pacific Northwest and Midwest presbyteries began to arrive in Malaysia to pray on-site. Our EPC global workers recommitted themselves to do the work of evangelists and significantly increased their gospel sharing. They increased their partnerships with Chinese, Indian, and Tribal Christians in Malaysia to pray for and share good news with their Malay neighbors. And through online advertising and social media they’re connecting with thousands of Malay and making the scriptures available. 

We believe our prayers for spiritual breakthrough shook the gates of Hell, and the first result was a violent backlash by demonic forces. We believe millions of Malays in the depths of their spiritual dungeon are hearing the faint din of battle outside. Now is not the time to withdraw. 

Our field team leader, Jeff, urges those of us who can to fast and pray on the First Monday of each month for:

  • The release of Pastor Raymond Koh (and other Christians who disappeared at the same time)
  • First encounters of Malays with Jesus through dreams, visions, and miracles
  • First Malay people of peace (“Lydias” and “Corneliuses”) connecting with our team
  • First discovery bible studies started with Malays in each of the 52 zones of Malaysia
  • First churches of Malay believers
After 18 years of sowing now is the time to cry out to the Lord of the Lord of the Harvest for spiritual breakthrough among the millions of Malay.

Community Life

Pray for the Malay

Visit our website to learn more about our dedication to Extraordinary Prayer for Breakthrough among the Malay People. Sign-up below if you would like to receive weekly updates from Jeff about this initiative and the work being done. In addition, we invite you to browse our Resources page for more information about missionschurch partnerships, and the people we are trying to reach.

Missionary Prayer Network

Sign-up to become a prayer intercessor with the Missionary Prayer Network and make a commitment to pray at least weekly for our workers around the globe. The M.P. N.  is a secure website where our EPC World Outreach global workers post prayer requests. You can then log-on to this website and pray World Outreach and our workers.

World Outreach Prayer Directory

The World Outreach Prayer Directory is a fantastic tool to use when praying for our global workers. It includes a comprehensive list of all WO missionaries and their long-term prayer needs.

Making Disciples of Jesus | January 2019

Dear friends,

Imagine a country with (officially) zero churches and zero Christian citizens. The country’s laws permit the employment of foreign Christians, but don’t allow those foreign Christians to practice their faith openly. Citizens of the country can hear the gospel via satellite tv and the internet but have no access to what is absolutely essential in most people’s conversion – the opportunity to talk over questions with another person. The only way that can happen is if a non-citizen comes, overcomes the obstacles, and starts talking about peace with God through Jesus.

Several years ago, Jim and Shannon were appointed by World Outreach to go and make disciples of Jesus in such a country. As Jim completed his professional credentials in order to qualify for job openings, he and Shannon began World Outreach’s TAG internship in Detroit. There they met people who were immigrants from their target country. They soon became close friends – so close that when Jim accepted a job offer in their country, those neighbors made sure their relatives back home gave them the warmest of welcomes on arrival.

Over the next several years, Shannon developed deep friendships with the women of this extended family. She talked with them about Jesus, and shared stories about him from the Bible. Last Christmas, Shannon told the women that she had a special gift for each of them – the most valuable thing in her possession – and gave a (smuggled) Bible to each woman of the family, so that they could read the stories themselves. As the women read about this Immanuel revealed in the Bible, they sensed God speaking to them. And, earlier this year, the first of this group took the brave step of putting her faith in Christ. Soon, she was joined by another – two sisters in Christ, captured by His love for them!

Jim and Shannon’s neighbors are like millions of others around the world whose only hope to have their deepest questions answered is that some outsider will come to them. That outsider could be a Filipino Christian housekeeper, a Chinese Christian construction worker, or an EPC engineer/businessman/English teacher. It could be you.

Why not devote 2019 to putting yourself in a posture to hear God’s answer to the question, “What do you want me to do about people without access to the gospel?” Here are a few ways to start: watch this short video about the task that still remains; take the Perspectives course to understand God’s mission, how the global Church has responded, and what the greatest needs in world evangelization are today; or join the TAG internship, like Jim and Shannon, to take part in Kingdom living among those that don’t yet know the love of Christ. Make 2019 the year you find your part in declaring God’s glory among people walking in darkness!

Community Life

Perspectives

Learn about God’s mission, how the global Church has responded, and what the greatest needs in the world of evangelization are today – and how you can be a part of God’s story as he redeems people from the nations to himself.

T.A.G.

TAG is a 10 month missional community of believers living among Muslims in Dearborn, MI. Together, you will immerse yourself in the culture and traditions of your Dearborn neighborhood, learn how to build bridges with others, share Jesus stories, and start a house church. TAG’s goal is to equip you with the skills necessary to take the gospel of Christ to places where the church does not yet exist. 

Reaching the Unreached

There are 3 billion people who will live and die without hearing about the love of Christ; that’s 40% of the world. Learn more about the task that still remains by watching this short video. Consider sharing it with your friends, family, and congregation too.