Many Facets, One Purpose
By Cathy Ketcher
Nov. 4, 2012
In a Burkina Faso city, a man completes a homework assignment by sharing the gospel in a neighborhood coffee shop. Nine people receive Christ as a result.
In a village on São Tomé and Principe, an island nation off the west coast of central Africa, a pastor eagerly prepares a sermon using Bible study materials printed in Portuguese. For the first time, doctrinal truths are presented in a way he can understand.
A woman in an impoverished neighborhood in Peru gratefully receives Christ after meeting a group of medical professionals who have come for a clinic. Her joy multiplies as God miraculously heals her.
These three people are from different locations and cultures, but in one way they are the same: Each of them is growing in Christ because of the diligent work of missionaries with AGWM International Ministries.
International Ministries is a network of strategic outreaches that focuses on meeting specific needs for missionaries and national fellowships worldwide. Missionaries serving with International Ministries are uniquely skilled in creating and providing materials and means that help resident missionaries in their outreach efforts. Using printed resources, one-on-one training, construction expertise or medical assistance, International Ministries is helping to fulfill the mission of Assemblies of God World Missions by reaching the lost, planting churches, training disciples and touching people in need around the world.
“International Ministries exists to serve missionaries and national believers worldwide,” says Dr. JoAnn Butrin, International Ministries director. “Our effectiveness lies in our partnership with missionaries serving throughout the world. Missionaries may be highly capable but still need people with additional, specialized skills for a particular situation. When this happens, they request assistance from the international ministry that can best address the need.”
By offering specific skills, missionaries with International Ministries help make witnessing and discipleship more effective, which can help open doors for the church. Their specific abilities are particularly useful in restricted-access areas where nontraditional outreaches and offerings are needed.
“Missionaries often see the need for certain ministry tools, but they don’t have the time or resources to create and distribute them,” says JoAnn. “Standard methods may not be the most effective because of specific needs and unique sensitivities where the missionaries are serving.”
Most of the services of International Ministries are based in the United States, but the impact of their work is felt worldwide.
The man in Burkina Faso was taking courses through Global University in Springfield, Missouri, the distance-education Bible school of the Assemblies of God. As a course assignment, he was required to give his personal testimony and share the gospel. He went to his neighborhood coffee shop and asked permission to speak to the group of men who usually gathered there each morning. After sharing about his life and the power of God, he gave a salvation invitation. Six men responded. Within a few weeks, the number grew to nine. What began as homework became a long-term mentorship as the Global University student discipled the new believers.
The pastor on São Tomé and Principe was one of 50 church leaders who attended a week of ministry training using materials supplied by Life Publishers, the primary publishing ministry of AG World Missions. With few ministry tools available to him, the pastor had struggled to lead his congregation. As he gratefully received a copy of the Fire Bible, a study Bible featuring notes written from a Pentecostal perspective, he knew his understanding of the Scriptures would deepen, allowing him to guide his congregation more effectively. He could also pass along his old, tattered Bible to someone else, knowing how desperately the people in his church wanted to study God’s Word for themselves.
The woman in Peru visited a medical clinic sponsored by HealthCare Ministries, the medical missions outreach of AG World Missions. At 75 years old, she was suffering with painful arthritis, and cataracts dimmed her vision. Medical professionals on the HealthCare team told her they lacked the equipment to help her medically, but they could help her with her spiritual need. Eagerly, the woman prayed to receive Christ. Before she left, the team also prayed for her physical problems. The next day the excited woman returned to the clinic to report that God had healed her. She was pain free and her vision was clear.
Teams from International Ministries often go to a specific place for a short period of time, but they leave a long-term impact.
“We’ve seen amazing results after spending time in a community, assessing needs and offering training,” says JoAnn. “It may be something basic like showing a village how to create and use a simple water filter. But through these efforts, the local church gains visibility and credibility. The service, training or resource International Ministries provides is simply a supplement to what the church is offering. Missionaries and national pastors are available to follow up with those who come to the short-term outreaches so new believers are not left dangling with no one to guide them. The key is total partnership. When that partnership is in place, the results are inspiring.”
JoAnn has witnessed the impact of this type of partnership many times. One of her most significant memories is still unfolding after 13 years.
“I led a HealthCare Ministries team in 1999 to assist the pastor of a struggling church in a difficult area of Tanzania,” she recalls. “People were very resistant to the gospel and resented the church’s presence. The pastor warned our team that we would likely be spit upon as we walked through the village because of the people’s hatred toward Christians. But when we opened the clinic on the church grounds, hundreds of people came for treatment. Under normal circumstances, they never would have come near the church.”
But the change in attitude didn’t end there.
“I saw the pastor a year later, and he told me that people were greeting him warmly and showing much more respect to the church,” JoAnn adds. “By using our skills and showing kindness in the face of hostility, our team had made a long-term impact for that pastor and his church.”
Two years ago she met the pastor at a meeting in Kenya. Joyfully he reported that several more churches had been planted in the area. Many of the local residents were attending a church-sponsored community center to receive training in a variety of trades.
“Our partnership with that pastor gave him visibility and credibility,” says JoAnn. “He now has a platform from which to share the gospel. God used our short-term presence to make a long-term difference.”
As national fellowships grow, they develop more specialized needs. In response, International Ministries is continually seeking ways to extend the church’s outreach.
“We are seeing this scenario take place more frequently,” says JoAnn. “For example, a number of talented physicians in El Salvador attend large Assemblies of God churches. They have opened their hospitals to HealthCare teams, allowing specialists from the United States to train their staffs in specific surgical or optical procedures. This type of training enhances the skills of hospital personnel and gives the church a greater testimony. We want to extend our reach and help provide what missionaries and national believers need to impact the greatest number of people with the gospel.”
The tools used by missionaries with International Ministries range from computers to concrete mixers to stethoscopes. Their methods of ministry may be nontraditional, but their goal is the same: reaching the lost with the love of Christ. Called by God and gifted with unique skills, they work to provide what is needed to open doors for the gospel.
“Because many of the missionaries who serve with International Ministries have extensive field experience in other countries, they have learned other languages and understand national church relationships,” says JoAnn. “They use their specific skills and giftings to serve the body of Christ through International Ministries. The resulting partnership makes a greater impact for the gospel than could ever be accomplished by the missionary alone.”
CATHY KETCHER is editorial coordinator for AGWM Communications.
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