Killed for Christ in the Amazon

Killed for Christ in the Amazon

Killed for Christ in the Amazon

In January 1956, five American Christian missionaries were brutally killed by members of a remote Amazonian tribe.

The missionaries had made contact with the Auca, or Huaorani tribe a year earlier, in an attempt to convert them to Christianity.

A small nomadic tribe, the Huaorani were notoriously suspicious of outsiders.

Valerie Shepard’s father, Jim Elliot, was one of the five men on the mission into the jungle.

She spoke to Witness about her father’s death and how she learned to forgive his killers.


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6 Ways You Can Support Missionaries

6 Ways You Can Support Missionaries

“What can we do to help? Can we send you a short-term team?”
As a missionary on furlough, I have often been asked these questions by supporters, home churches, and missions committees. Understandably, some supporters want to be as hands-on as possible in helping their missionaries. Sending a short-term team may look like an attractive option. But even when these offers stem from sincere motives, sending a short-term team may not always be the most helpful way to support missionaries. In fact, sometimes missionaries feel pressure to accept short-term teams even if they do not actually need them—especially if the request comes from a major supporting church. Furthermore, some missionaries are drained by hosting short-term teams. The planning often requires them to deflect significant amounts of time and attention away from ministering to locals. This is especially true if short-term team members have not been properly trained or informed prior to the trip, are not culturally adaptable, lack overall maturity, or do not speak the local dialect.
Missionaries who face intense spiritual battle rely on the prayerful and generous support of churches and individuals. That said, overseas missions would be impossible without the committed, consistent support of well-informed people and churches back at home. Here are six alternative ways to support missionaries and take part in God’s mission to the world.

1. Pray for your missionaries regularly. Then tell the missionary you’re praying for specific prayer requests.
One missionary shared recently that he ran some statistics on his outgoing prayer emails. He discovered that a large portion of his prayer emails—possibly more than half—weren’t even opened by the recipients, the people he was counting on as his prayer warriors. This is disconcerting. Writing quick emails to your missionary to tell them you’re praying for specific requests assures them that, no matter how isolated they might be, their ministry is being covered in prayer. Being specific about your prayers will help them know you are looking over their requests carefully. If your address or contact information changes, be sure to let your missionaries know; this applies to missions committees as well as individual supporters. Nothing is more discouraging to a missionary than returned prayer letters and unanswered phone calls to supporting churches.

In the busyness of life, it can be difficult to pray diligently and regularly for missions work. The task can be aided by organizing a prayer group for your missionary; if you do this, be sure to let your missionaries know so they can be encouraged and maybe even Skype in during one of the prayer meetings.

2. Commit to regular financial support.
One-time donations are welcome, but regular support shows missionaries that you are committed to their ministry in the long haul. It also provides missionaries with a more consistent source of income, so they do not have to be overly concerned about whether they will be able to maintain their support level year to year. Most missionaries dread the prospect of being sent home to raise funds if their supporting churches or individual supporters drop them or forget to give.
Missionaries have a lot to worry about already—cultural and linguistic adaptation, running ministries with limited resources, resistance, persecution, harsh living environments, and more. Though support-raising might be a necessary reality, you can make the process easier for overseas Christian laborers by being consistent in your support. It’s a shame that many people avoid going to the missions field, as the Great Commission mandates, because they fear support raising. In Philippians 4:15-19, Paul commends a church that supported him financially when he was overseas: When I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Financially supporting missionaries not only blesses them—it also blesses you.

3. Help combat homesickness.
A simple care package can communicate a great deal. Ask your missionaries if there is anything they particularly miss from home—books, worship or sermon CDs, foods, spices, toys, games, or TV shows. If receiving mail is not possible for them but using the internet is, offer online goods like downloadable music credit, magazine subscriptions, or e-books.

4. Help missionaries during their “furloughs.”
The term furlough can be deceiving because it suggests the missionary is taking time off or enjoying a long holiday. For this reason, some mission agencies such as ours dub this time as a “home assignment.” Don’t assume that “furloughs” are entirely restful for the missionary. In fact, many missionaries return home with a dose of reluctance, not because they don’t love their home churches, but because of the cultural transitions and logistical hassles that “furloughs” entail.

We know that war-torn soldiers who return from tours of duty need special support. Recent statistics about the high suicide rate among U.S. troops remind us of this reality. Like returning soldiers, missionaries on “furlough” often return home similarly confused. Some might detect a widening emotional gap with friends back at home because they’ve traversed entire seasons of life apart. Some have suffered the death of relatives while they were overseas, resulting in a loss of intimacy in their family networks. Some have endured trauma overseas and might need counseling but cannot afford it at regular rates. You can assist your missionaries during their “furloughs” in many tangible ways. You can help them acclimate by greeting them at the airport or by asking them intelligent questions about their life and ministry. You can volunteer to help them with housing or setting up a mobile phone. You can let them borrow vehicles or furniture. Since visiting home churches often requires a fair amount of travel, you can offer to help with childcare or donate your frequent flier miles. If you are a counselor or physician, consider offering your services free of charge. Finally, you can help spread the word of their return to others and keep up with what they might need throughout their “furlough.” Befriend them; encourage your children to get to know theirs.

5. If you do want to visit the missionary overseas, be mindful of their point of view.
Sometimes, short-term missions trips are not as helpful to missionaries as vision trips, where people go overseas to acquaint themselves with an area they are committed to pray for and otherwise support long-term. People who visit the field with this mindset can then spread their passion for missions with churches at home and serve as long-term advocates for missionaries. If you would like to go overseas to visit a missionary or lead a short-term team, be sure to dialogue with the missionary beforehand and try not to bring to the table any preconceived notions about what you think would be helpful. Ask for the missionary’s honest opinion about what would be best for them. Go with a clear mindset of serving and learning. Missionaries who have worked to build up a ministry over a period of years may not want advice from short-term visitors who are only in the country for a couple of days or weeks. Similarly, if a Chinese Christian visiting the United States for the first time immediately confronted a pastor about how the entire American church should be run, that person—no matter how well-meaning—would probably be disregarded.

Even so, visits from supporters and church representatives can be helpful. Once, when we were on the field, a pastor from our home church came to visit us. We wanted to show him our different ministries, but due to typhoons, we had to cancel most of our events. Still, the pastor remained flexible and even volunteered to help my husband mop up an area of our new gospel center that had flooded because of the torrential rain. One night, a local woman came to our house to chat, and it became evident that we would soon enjoy significant gospel conversation. My husband and the visiting pastor went upstairs and started to pray for us. The woman received Christ that night and became our first convert.

The pastor’s visit encouraged us because he came with the goal to pray, watch, and learn. Throughout his stay he expressed compassion and concern for us, and he did not jump to making rash conclusions about anything he observed. The whole experience helped him better understand what our lives were like overseas.

6. Send a “medium-term” missionary to help be part of a long-term vision.
People willing to commit one to two years to the missions field usually have enough time to learn the local language and contribute to the ministry in a significant way. “Medium-term” missionaries can build meaningful relationships with locals and support long-term missionaries in a way that can help sustain a ministry in the long run.
For instance, one young woman came to Taiwan specifically to help a long-term missionary couple with the education of their special-needs son. Perhaps many people in the church have the ability to teach missionary kids, which could free up more missionaries to minister in completely unreached areas of the world that lack missionary schools. Other people might have the capacity to teach English overseas. Still others work well with children, are gifted in evangelism, or have professional skills that can be employed in a particular project.

If you know someone interested in “medium-term” missions, ask the missionaries you support about what kinds of opportunities might be available.

Little Act, Big Effect
I remember one point in the early stages of our ministry when we wanted to let local children play with American board games during our outreach events. After sending out a quick email to our supporters, many of them immediately offered to send us games. Having these supporter gifts on hand eventually helped us launch several children’s ministries that led families to seek Christ.
“How did you get these games over here?” one curious local asked while watching her children play with the games.
“They’re from Christians around the world who believe in the Good News so much that they sent us here to share it,” I replied.
She smiled. “That’s really moving.” Sometimes, little acts of support and commitment can go a long way.

by Jennifer Su McIntyre

The midwife who answered God’s call

The midwife who answered God’s call

TV shows often draw their inspiration from real life and just as Chummy, the much loved character in Call the Midwife, heads to Sierra Leone as a missionary with Church Mission Society, her story draws parallels with real life midwife Eve Vause, who “got the call” back in the fifties.
In the first episode of the current series, Chummy, played by Miranda Hart, is seen sticking a stamp on an envelope addressed to the Church Missionary Society in Salisbury Square, London – the organisation’s name and address at the time the series is set.
The experiences of the midwives in the BBC1 drama are familiar to Eve, who was pedalling around the streets of post-War Southampton as a midwife. However, she felt called to meet the needs further from home and in 1958, headed to Sierra Leone by cargo ship.
In the fifties, the difficult conditions meant that only short-term placements were permitted. However, unlike Chummy, who returns to Britain in the show, the year in Sierra Leone marked the beginning of nearly a quarter of a century in mission service on the African continent.
The call upon Eve’s life would take her to Nigeria, Congo and Uganda, where she lived through the Obote and Amin years.

Eve Vause, when she was a missionary midwife in Uganda in 1973 (Photo: Church Missionary Society Archives)

Recalling her experience in Uganda, she says: “One time I was certainly relying very consciously on God was when the army had been attacking our child health and maternity centres, and they had attacked and raped the midwives in one place.”
When one health centre was evacuated, the midwives refused to leave. “They had the ward full of mothers. They didn’t want to go,” she says.
“We knew the effect on the village would be devastating if we suddenly took their midwives away. So we left them… but that was a time I was leaning dramatically on God.”
Today, CMS is still recruiting healthcare professionals, including midwives, particularly for the training of nationals. Penny Stradling, CMS vocational recruitment officer, said there was still an “urgent need” for healthcare professionals to share their skills.
“The chance of a mother dying in childbirth is up to 100 times greater in some parts of Africa than in the UK,” she said.
Eve has encouraging words for a new generation to rise up to the challenge of serving. “The gospel is a gospel of wholeness – of body and mind as well as spirit,” she says. “I think it’s up to us to share the good news that we have in Jesus.”

3 Little known secrets to effective evangelism

3 Little known secrets to effective evangelism

Titus 2:14 reminds us that Jesus gave Himself as the payment to redeem a people from the marketplace of sin, and to purify these people for Himself. This new society has been redeemed by Jesus, for Jesus and through Jesus’ sacrifice, so He is the fulfillment of God’s promises to be our God, and we a people for His own possession.
Because this relationship has been initiated by God and made possible by Jesus, it stands to reason the purpose for this new community will be consistent with God’s revealed purpose in Scripture. Verse 12 says the grace of God is training us to renounce all that is contrary to the purposes of God in our lives and to live in anticipation of the future restoration of all things, brought about by Jesus’ return.
This truth is what discipleship is all about: learning to live in light of the good news that redeemed us, until we think, act, speak and live like Jesus (Romans 8:29). And this is why evangelism must seen as a part of our continual discipleship rather than a one time event that precedes discipleship.
At best, we run the risk of communicating that repentance is needed to enter the Kingdom, but better spiritual formation methods are needed once inside. At worst, we may be communicating that it is possible to come to Jesus for salvation without having any intention of being His disciples.

Here are 3 ways this truth shapes evangelism and discipleship at Soma:

1) Repentance is not an initial decision to come to Jesus, it is a lifestyle.
In order to follow Jesus in a way where I become like Him, I need to confront areas of unbelief in my life every single day. In order for an unbeliever to come to Jesus, they also must allow the same gospel to confront areas of unbelief in their life. In this way, mature believers realize they never move past their need for the Gospel, and unbelievers realize they cannot move forward in a relationship with God without the Gospel.

2) When discipleship becomes the focus of our life in Christ, evangelism becomes normative.
Rather than looking to create evangelistic conversations, the people of God realize that every conversation is an opportunity to remember how Jesus is the fulfillment of everything that we all want from life. When a friend is sharing about their desire for a higher paying job, we know that Jesus is the only true security. When a young lady is sharing about her relationship struggles, we know that no boyfriend can make her any more complete than she is in Christ. When a parent is grieving the loss of a child, we know that God also lost a son, and in so doing, has redeemed suffering.
When the gospel becomes our curriculum for discipleship, these conversations with non Christians happen all the time, because we have been preaching the same gospel to ourselves and other Christians every day. The only difference is one has never believed this truth, and another needs to be reminded.

3) Our public gatherings become a weekly celebration of this truth.
When the church gathers, we publicly acknowledge our worship of, belief in and need for Jesus. The same gospel that initially saved us is now continually maturing us, and will forever be our only righteousness before the Lord. Because the truth that saves also sanctifies, every unbeliever at a public gathering of the church will know the need to repent of an initial and ongoing desire to usurp God’s throne with our own, every nominal Christian will have a bigger picture of who God is and what He has done, and every disciple already in love with Jesus will have an opportunity to worship the God who is making them holy and blameless before Him.


Should Missions Be Secondary In the Life of a Local Church?

Should Missions Be Secondary In the Life of a Local Church?

No. In fact, the very mission statement at the center of our church is, “We exist to spread“—the key word there spread—”spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.”

The very last thing Jesus said—which I assume means it is important—before he went back to heaven was, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). So the very last crucial thing he put on the church until the end of the age—and we’re not there yet—is making disciples of those who are not yet believers in Jesus.

The reason missions has to be so central is because the glory of God is central. And people who don’t believe in Jesus are trampling the glory of God in the dirt because of their unbelief or indifference. But we love the glory of God, and we want them to see and savor the glory of God and magnify it in the world.

Therefore missions, for anybody who loves the glory of God as the central reality in the universe, has to be one of our central tasks.

By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

5 Reasons Christians Struggle with Evangelism

5 Reasons Christians Struggle with Evangelism

1. Fear
Sharing your faith is a scary prospect. You can lose face and friends as a result of communicating this “narrow-minded” message of the Gospel, even when you do so in love.
When choosing between being accepted by others and sharing the good news with others, too often Christians choose silence. Fear is the biggest culprit that keeps most Christians from evangelizing.
The Cure: “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Eph. 6:19-20).

2. Ignorance
There are many Christians who, down deep inside, want to share their faith, but they honestly don’t know what to say.
Sadly, if you were to put a microphone in the face of the average churchgoer leaving a typical Sunday morning service and asked them to define the Gospel message, the answers could range from “um” to dumb. To add insult to injury, far too many preachers have over-complicated the Gospel to the point where even true Christians wonder if they are saved. They’ve added caveats and small print to John 3:16 and, as a result, many believers are confused by the clear and simple Gospel they once embraced with child-like faith.
The Cure: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures …” (1 Cor. 15:3,4)

3. Arrogance
Sadly, there are Christians who think they are above sharing the Gospel. After all, isn’t that what they pay the pastor, youth leader and missionary to do? These Christians want to sing about Jesus in the sanctuary, exegete his book in Sunday school but don’t want to get their lily-white hands defiled with the diseased and dirty “sinners” by having to actually talk to them.
The Cure: “And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, ‘Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance’ ” (Luke 5:30-32).

4. Apathy
Sadly, there are many who call themselves Christians, but they just don’t care about the lost. They believe there is a hell. They know those who don’t know Jesus will go there forever. But they, for whatever reason, just don’t care. They have lost their first love and, therefore, refuse to do what he commands. And, like the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2, if they don’t start letting their little lights shine, they could have their candles snuffed out altogether.
The Cure: “When he saw the crowds he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36).

5. Bad Theology
This brand of bad theology has a range. One extreme defangs hell by making it mythical or instantaneous suffering (as opposed to eternal), therefore removing the urgency to evangelize. The other side of the range uses the doctrine of election as a way to eradicate urgency. After all, if God is sovereign in salvation, why evangelize?
Although I believe in the sovereignty of God in salvation, I’m also fully convinced that if people don’t hear and believe the Gospel, then they’ll be damned forever. I chose not to try to solve the riddle but live in the tension between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. It is in the midst of this tension that God provides us both urgency and assurance, urgency to reach the lost who are headed to hell and assurance that God is the only one who is sovereign in salvation.
The Cure: “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10).

By Greg Stier

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