Missions Launch

Helping those who help the world

Dr. Livingstone I Presume?

by Stephanie Colman |

Africa, Famous Missionaries

African Tribal MaskHave you ever considered the lengths that some missionaries have gone for their passion to reach the lost? While exploring and discovering the interior of a “Dark Continent” isn’t an option today, there are still people that have never heard about salvation to be found. David Livingstone was one of the great missionary explorers of the past.

“Death alone will put a stop to my efforts!” is a famous and powerful quote of missionary David Livingstone. David Livingstone’s life spanned the years from 1813 and his birth in Scotland to 1873 and his death in Africa. From simple and difficult beginnings David Livingstone persevered and in 1840 he was ordained and received his medical diploma. While waiting to travel to China to become a missionary he met Dr. Robert Moffat who was a missionary to Africa, Dr. Moffat said that “I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been” in Africa. Immediately Dr. Livingstone decided he would go to Africa instead to be a missionary.

He began his work at Dr. Moffat’s missionary station and then he began traveling deeper into the heart of Africa. Dr. Livingstone found that his medical skills provided him with many opportunities to share his faith and were a great benefit to his missionary work. One of his many great missionary works might be considered his time spent with Chief Sechéle who eventually became a convert even though his faith brought him many trials with his tribe. Dr. Livingstone explored much of Africa sharing his faith as he went. Indeed it was only in death that Dr. Livingstone stopped exploring and sharing the gospel. While Dr. Livingstone chose Africa to serve as a missionary his strength of conviction to share God with the lost can be a testimony to us all in our everyday lives.

Photo by Chris Martin Studios

Meeting Elisabeth Elliot

by Athelda Ensley |

Famous Missionaries

jungle parrotEveryone experiences those times in life where they’re simply in a rut. Things aren’t awful or wonderful, they just simply are.

But in those little moments, the ones that often go unnoticed, God gives us the encouragement we require. This is exactly what happened to me when I attended a conference where missionary Elisabeth Elliot was teaching, several years ago. The first thing to strike me was the impressiveness of her stature. She is quite a tall lady, while I’m somewhat of a shrimp. Immediately, that motherly feeling was exuded from her and she had my full attention.

If you’re familiar with the awesomeness of her testimony and her life, then you know how powerful hearing it in person was to me. Yes, she told us about how she and Jim(her first husband) served as missionaries and made their life while doing this assignment. Yes, she spoke about his tragic death and the journey of putting her life back together again.

Jim Elliot was tragically murdered in the jungles of Ecuador by a tribe of Waodani people, the very ones he was trying to reach as a missionary. A short while later, Elisabeth Elliot went back into the jungle with her young toddler daughter to the live with the very tribe that killed her husband in order to show them the love of God.

I was impressed with the progression of her own personal relationship with Christ. All of her strength came from Him! Elisabeth was able to forgive her husband’s killers because of Christ’s strength and His love.Those two power sources carried her to the next season of life, and allowed her to not give up on the greater good of missionary work!

Suddenly, my rut was over and I began to see what God could do in my life, as well if only I would stay close to Him.  And if He is calling me to the mission field, I know that I too could tap into that same source of power. It’s little moments like those that don’t make our lives seem small, but more of a blank canvas upon which God can paint, anything He wishes, in His own way.

Parrot photo by Mr. Usaji

Coconuts, Sweet Potatoes and Communion

by Heather Carr |

Contextualization in Missions, Cultural Sensitivity

coconut treeWhen I went away to college, I thought receiving Holy Communion was radical stuff. Little did I know, the world of the Blessed Sacrament is about as varied and diverse as the people who receive it. Filipino Christians have been known to replace bread and wine with coconuts, which are a mainstay in their diet. The coconut is broken, and the recipients drink of its milk and eat of the fruit’s flesh, though some have complained about the milk’s pale color. In Taiwan, a communing Christian may encounter a duo of sweet potatoes and tea while partaking of the Body and Blood.

Indonesia offers an interesting twist. Theologians there tried using chicken meat in the sacrament. The popular bird is considered to be a symbol of God’s love, based on the words of Jesus himself in Matthew 23:37, “how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings …” The rooster also serves as a reminder of our vulnerability. A warning that we, too, could deny Christ as Peter once did. Strong rice wine is also used to replace traditional wine or grape juice. Now that would make for an interesting Sunday morning service.

The unique ways in which Christ’s command to take and eat are put into practice today are a beautiful reflection of God’s creation. No matter what the means of receiving Holy Communion, we all share the common reminder of the sacrifice Christ made for us, a sacrifice which bonds us to Him for eternity.

Coconut tree photo by Swami Stream

The Dangers of Over-Contextualization

by Melissa Chang |

Contextualization in Missions, Stories from the Field, Thailand

Buddha StatuesWhen it comes to contextualization, how far is too far? This is a question faced by missionaries on the field every day.  One such missionary is Karl who is currently residing in Thailand.  He has been faced with the question of contextualization lately in his dealings with new Christians, ex-Buddhists, and the local church. This is an excerpt from his blog, Gleanings from the Field.

I’ve heard about a missionary in Northeast Thailand who is teaching converts to call themselves “New Buddhists” (new in the sense that they believe in Christ). Okay, so perhaps the offense of being perceived as converting to a Western religion is avoided by avoiding the label “Christian” but there is certainly an equal if not greater problem which is created. Isn’t the term “New Buddhist” disingenuous? Doesn’t it create confusion and a lack of clarity? I’m all for hanging onto all aspects of culture that are not sinful but doesn’t there have to be some break with the past as a person takes on a new identity in Christ? If I were from an secular humanistic atheistic background and I believed in Christ, could I legitimately stay in my cultural context in order to win my atheist friends and family to Christ by calling myself a “New Atheist”? People whom we are trying to share Christ with are smarter than that and Christians should be more honest than that.

Another example: My wife and I were eating with some Thai friends recently, a Christian couple who work with students. The husband told us that his brother, who is an elder at a well known church in Bangkok, was told by the pastor there that he shouldn’t make a fuss about participating in the Buddhist part of his wedding ceremony as he got married to a Buddhist woman. I don’t know the exact reason why this Thai pastor, who did a PhD on contextualization at a seminary in the West, advised this man in such a way. Our Thai friends who told us this certainly did not think that this was either appropriate or faithful to the Gospel. But I do wonder if this pastor gave such advice in the name of not causing offense that could impede eventual acceptance of the Gospel by the bride or her family.

How far should you go to fit in?

by Melissa Chang |

Contextualization in Missions, Hindu Contextualization, India

 Puja ceremony

When in a  new culture, there is a great struggle to figure out how much of that culture to fit into without “watering down” what it means to truly follow Jesus. Where do you draw the line? 

I myself had a struggle with this issue on a recent trip to India with a devout Hindu family. I wanted to respect them and find a place of connection with them. I was hoping to do this with as much respect and common ground as possible while staying true to my own beliefs. I certainly didn’t want to offend them, but I was hoping to somehow talk to them about my own beliefs. But, once I got there and was faced with their Hindu ceremonies, the issue of where to draw the lines in my own life became very real to me.

ganges offering

Before you read the examples, you should also note that I don’t really know that much about the Hindu religion, so I was at even more of a loss.

-To wash away their sins, they would bathe in the Ganges river. That one was easy for me. I was already washed in the blood of Jesus, so I didn’t need my sins washed away.

-But what about placing gifts of flowers onto the river to send their prayers to their God? I mean, it was very moving and beautiful. Couldn’t I place an offering to send down the river as a symbol of my prayer to my God? Well, I decided not to because I didn’t really understand the meaning of the ceremony and didn’t want make my hosts mistakenly think I was Hindu. So, I gracefully bowed out.

-Another situation I faced was that every morning my hosts would pray in the morning in front of a small alter in their home, and then put some ashes on my head so I would be protected all day. When they did this they would kiss my cheek and tell me they loved me. I decided that it was an expression of their love for me so I just smiled and said Thanks.

-After going to a temple to pray and make an offering they brought out some candy, that was like a blessing from their gods, as far as I could tell. This time I just told them that I followed a different God and didn’t want to make Him jealous.

Ganges Bathing

So, did I do the right things? I am sure I made many mistakes. However, these questions are really worth considering, especially when figuring out how to portray the basics of following Jesus to those of a different culture. I think good advice would be to research and learn from those that have experience in all these things, and look to God Himself to guide you.

Offering photo by judepics
Bathing photo by A. www.viajar24h.com 
Puja ceremony by
orange tuesday  

The Struggle of Contextualization

by Melissa Chang |

Contextualization in Missions, Cultural Sensitivity, Muslim Contextualization

boy prayingOne of the most difficult struggles in church planting and missions in new cultures isn’t just the culture shock, it’s figuring out the fine line between respecting the culture of a people without watering down the gospel or compromising its message. For example, according to a blog called LeakeSpeak, here are a few questions faced when Muslims become Christians:

  • By what name do you call God? Do you tell people that Allah is not God and then try and introduce them to the one true God, giving him some other name? Or do you say that Allah is the one true God and then try and help lead people to a clearer understanding of his true nature?
  • Can a believer worship God in a mosque? Or should s/he never go to a mosque again after beginning to follow Christ?
  • Muslims customarily kneel and pray five times a day. Is this an okay practice for a follower of Christ to continue, or should a Muslim-background believer be encouraged to avoid it?

In a comment posted later, the author tried to show us what the line might look like from an Americna perspective. Here is his comment:

Taking it back to an example in our own culture, which of the following would go over better with you if you were a non-Christian parent in the U.S.?

–Your kid comes home, says he’s accepted Christ, he continues to live in your community as an American, and you see a radical change in his life, OR

–Your kid comes home, says he’s accepted Christ, he’s therefore no longer of this world, so he renounces his U.S. citizenship, refuses to salute the flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance, burns his passport, will never watch a baseball game again because it’s the American passtime, and abstains from apple pie because that’s also too American.

Obviously, it is of utmost important to find that line that continues to maintain culture, without compromising what the very basics are of becoming a Christ follower. The services might change, the music will certainly change…but there is so much more to consider.  What is the bottom line of what it means to follow Jesus and how can we only pass that on to the new believers without forcing our own culture upon them?  That is the question.

Photo by Terminalnomad Photography

Egypt: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Lizbeth Pereira |

Africa, Cultural Sensitivity, Egypt

EGYPT: FACTS & STATSCairo Skyline

Location: North-Eastern Africa; Bordered by the Red Sea and Israel on the East, Sudan on the South, Libya to the West, and the Mediterranean Sea to the North.

map of egyptCapital: Cairo

Climate: Summer is hot and dry, while winters are mild in the day and extremely cold at night. Hot spring winds known as sirocco can rise up to sandstorms during the months from March to May.

Population: 80,335,036 according to July 2007 estimates. The Egyptian economy is propped up by agriculture, industry, crude oil and petroleum products. About 23% of the population are plagued by poverty which is directly attributed to overpopulation. The official unemployment rate stays at 12%.

bedouin girlEthnic Make-up: Eastern Hamitic 99% including Egyptians, Bedouins, and Berbers; Minorities 1% including Nubians, Armenians, Greeks, Italian, French

Religions: Muslim 90%, Christian 8%, Others 2%. Islam is the official religion. Evangelism is illegal, but there is considerable missionary work being carried out mainly by Protestants and the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Language: Egyptian Arabic is the spoken language while Standard Arabic is the official written form. English and French are also used in business and education.

Government: Arab Republic

egypt pyramidsTravel Issues: Visitors to Egypt require a visa and this can be obtained from the Embassies or Consulates in your country. You can also get an entry visa upon arrival at major ports of entry. Applications forms may be obtained from the airlines prior to landing in Egypt.

Health & Safety: Yellow fever immunization is mandatory. Others recommended are against hepatitis A, polio, tetanus, typhoid, malaria, and rabies. Protect yourself against contracting Schistosomiasis or Bilharzias which is caused by tiny worms entering your body through the skin, by not swimming in freshwater. If you do get wet, dry off immediately and thoroughly and change clothes.

Though crime is not as rampant as in other areas, you still have to watch out for petty thieves and pickpockets, as well as scamsters out to make a quick buck.

SOCIETY & CULTUREEgyptian Family Meal

The People: Egypt is an ancient civilization that has happily accepted modern conveniences while deeply rooted in traditional values and customs. Men and women have well-defined roles and equal importance is accorded to all responsibilities. Children are valued and brought up with deeply inculcated values. Both boys and girls take up household chores as soon as they are old enough. Boys herd sheep and farm the land, while girls learn to cook, sew and run the household.

Sailboat on NileThe Religion: Religion is a way of life and strong deterrent against waywardness. Islam is the official religion and has about 90% followers, the majority of whom belong to the Sunni sect. Christianity is practiced by about 8% and this includes Catholics, Protestants, and the Coptic Orthodox which are the majority. The Baha’i faith is also followed by a small minority, and there is a miniscule Jewish population.

Role of Family: Strong family bonds exist in extended families that include grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The consequences of any disaster or good fortune are shared by all. It is considered a duty to stand by a family member in times of need. Elders take care of grievances between family members and they are obeyed without question.

man smoking shishaAncestors: The pyramids stand testimony to the Egyptian belief in afterlife. There are numerous festivals that attempt at bringing the dead and the living closer, marked by boisterous dancing and feasting. It is firmly believed that the ancestors, if propitiated well, could gain favours for the living from the gods.

Recreational Activities: Football is a national favorite, while boxing, wrestling, basketball, volleyball and weightlifting are highly popular too. In rural areas wrestling, weightlifting, ball games, and stick fencing are firm favorites.

Anything else important for this culture: Though not very superstitious as a rule, a belief in the evil eye is widespread. They go to great lengths to ward this off, and it is important to not try and contradict their efforts.

ETIQUETTE & CUSTOMSEdfu, Egypt

Meetings & Greetings: A traditional Muslim can be greeted with the formal Asalaam um Alaikum. A not too firm handshake while making eye contact is the best way to greet folks of the same gender. If you’re on more friendly terms, a kiss on both cheeks may be called for. This is never so in the case of the opposite gender. When greeting a woman, wait for her to extend her hand first. If she does not do so, simply bow your head in greeting instead of a handshake.

boys in egyptCourtesy: It is common courtesy to bring along a gift if invited to visit someone’s house. When inviting an Egyptian to your home, a first invitation may be declined to show respect, but the second one will be accepted gracefully. Remove your footwear before entering a home. Punctuality is highly appreciated.

Gift Giving: Gifts are offered when visiting or during feasts and festivals. For visiting a home, chocolates, pastries, or a box of candies makes the perfect choice. Do not give personal items such as clothes, jewellery, perfumes, etc. Flowers are not usually gifted. Give and receive with the right hand or both hands.

Gate in EgyptDress Code: Egyptians set great store by appearances. A neat, dignified appearance goes a long way in endearing you to the others. A good business suit is a must for men to make a good impression. Casual clothing is acceptable, and light clothing is recommended in summer. Women are advised to keep shoulders, arms, and knees covered at all times.

Dining Etiquette: Seating at a table follows a hierarchy that might not seem obvious. Therefore it is wise to wait till you’re invited to be seated. Food is eaten with the right hand. Do not salt your food at the table as this is considered insulting, especially in a home. You need not finish all the food on your plate, as a little left over indicates that you are satiated. A second helping is considered a compliment.

man at egyptian pyramidVisiting a home: When invited to visit a home, you could demur a little. A second invitation should be accepted. It is customary to carry a small gift as a token of your appreciation. Chocolates, pastries, fruits, and candies make good gifts. Avoid personal and very expensive items. Leave your footwear at the door, and wait to be shown to your seat.

Communication Style: Most Egyptians speak or at least understand English. But it is important that you speak to them clearly, enunciating each word to avoid misunderstandings. It does not have to descend to a mime show, but should be kept to a natural rhythm without artifice. Egyptians are highly emotional people and it is best to keep conversations off controversial topics such as religion or politics. They have a great sense of humor but avoid jokes of a political or sexual nature.

Egyptian Cart Boys

Dos and Don’ts: Do not gift flowers. Do not serve pork if you’re entertaining Muslims. You do not have to pay the bill or tips if you’re the guest at a restaurant dinner. On the other hand if you are the host, it is your duty to discreetly take care of the bill. Respect the prayer time schedules and Friday prayers, as well as the holy month of Ramadan when the Muslim population will be fasting from dawn to dusk. It will be insensitive on a visitor’s part to be seen smoking, drinking, or even chewing gum in their presence.

Pyramid photo by Tom@HK
Gate and Skyline by  Kris*M
Shisha photo by  simonkoležnik
Family photo by  7_70
2 Boys, Nile, Dresses by molajen
Man by Pyramids by eviljohnius
map by elicrisko ?
Bedouin Girl by
Paolo Camera
Smiling kids by mshamma

Does Handing Out Tracts Do Any Good?

by Melissa Chang |

Asia, Cultural Sensitivity, Evangelism, Stories from the Field, Thailand

This is an article originally posted by Thailand missionaries, Karl and Sun.  They write a blog titled Gleanings from the Field. 

thai temple
Photo by René Ehrhardt

“Before I came to Thailand in 1999, I had never handed out a tract in my life. The practice of handing out tracts is not very common in the U.S. anymore and even among evangelical Christians it seems to be regarded as some kind of weird unnatural activity that only really over-the-top religious nuts engage in. Perhaps the current emphasis on friendship evangelism and building relationships in order to share the Gospel (which is good and proper as the primary method of personal evangelism) has contributed to the disdain which has fell upon handing out tracts. Tracting can seem very impersonal and artificial, but it IS one means among many that God uses to reach people with the Gospel. It really shouldn’t be a stand-alone method of evangelism, but just one link in a chain of Gospel sowing that can contribute to people understanding and accepting the Gospel. Granted, lots of tracts end up in the dustbin or along the roadside, but God does use tracts as the following story illustrates. A fellow missionary gave me permission to share this encouraging story:熊出没攀岩滑梯

Buddhist Monk“This past Sunday two visitors came to church at In Grace Church: Colonel Surasak Banjukaew and his wife, Wanpen. I know them a bit (he attended SEANET this past year), but as I sat eating lunch with them I was able to learn much more about them. Surasak is the founder of a ministry among members of the military and the police force. Being a Christian in the military or police cannot be easy in this country. I find myself very encouraged that someone of his rank serves Christ so openly.

What I took special note of, though, is how Surasak and his wife became Christians. Back in the 80’s Geoff Case, an OMF Missionary in Bangkok, was going door to door, handing out tracts, and came upon Surasak’s home. At the time he was a clear Buddhist, rising in the ranks of the Thai army. Wanpen’s interest grew, and as she studied the Bible with Geoff’s wife, Surasak became interested too. They both turned to Christ and immediately started going out with the Cases doing open air evangelism and tracting.

It is this two part involvement that we aim for: Sowing with things like tracts, and saturating through Bible study with seekers. Often we don’t feel very good at either of these. Surasak’s and Wanpen’s words this weekend have encouraged us to keep our aim and press on. Thank you for backing us in prayer.”

Monk photo by Akuppa

Famous Missionary Quotes 2

by Melissa Chang |

Famous Missionaries, Missions Quotes

 cross over city
Photo by  THE SHOW MUST GO ON

“As long as there are millions destitute of the Word of God and knowledge of Jesus Christ, it will be impossible for me to devote time and energy to those who have both.” — J. L. Ewen

“The command has been to ‘go,’ but we have stayed — in body, gifts, prayer and influence. He has asked us to be witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the earth … but 99% of Christians have kept puttering around in the homeland.” — Robert Savage, Latin American Mission

“People who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives … and when the bubble has burst, they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.” — Nate Saint, missionary martyr

“We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God.” — John Stott

“Believers who have the gospel keep mumbling it over and over to themselves. Meanwhile, millions who have never heard it once fall into the flames of eternal hell without ever hearing the salvation story.” — K.P. Yohannan, founder of Gospel for Asia Bible Society

“Tell the students to give up their small ambitions and come eastward to preach the gospel of Christ.” — Francis Xavier, missionary to India, the Philippines, and Japan

“The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity.” — Mike Stachura

“The true greatness of any church in not how many it seats but how many it sends!” — Unknown

“‘Not called!’ did you say?
‘Not heard the call,’ I think you should say.” — William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army

“It is not in our choice to spread the gospel or not. It is our death if we do not.” — Peter Taylor Forsyth

“If God’s love is for anybody anywhere, it’s for everybody everywhere.” — Edward Lawlor, Nazarene General Superintendent

“Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is — where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge.” — Robert C. Shannon

“People who don’t believe in missions have not read the New Testament. Right from the beginning Jesus said the field is the world. The early church took Him at His word and went East, West, North and South.” — J. Howard Edington

“In no other way can the believer become as fully involved with God’s work, especially the work of world evangelism, as in intercessory prayer.” — Dick Eastman, president of Every Home for Christ (formerly World Literature Crusade)

“What’s your dream and to what corner of the missions world will it take you?” — Eleanor Roat, missions mobilizer

“We can reach our world, if we will. The greatest lack today is not people or funds. The greatest need is prayer.” — Wesley Duewel, head of OMS International

candle cross
Photo by hoyasmeg  

“Love is the root of missions; sacrifice is the fruit of missions” — Roderick Davis

“Missionary zeal does not grow out of intellectual beliefs, nor out of theological arguments, but out of love” — Roland Allen

“I have but one passion: It is He, it is He alone. The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can be most used in winning souls for Christ.” — Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf

“If you take missions out of the Bible, you won’t have anything left but the covers” — Nina Gunter

“If the Church is ‘in Christ,’ she is involved in mission. Her whole existence then has a missionary character. Her conduct as well as her words will convince the unbelievers and put their ignorance and stupidity to silence.” — David Bosch

“Missions is not the ‘ministry of choice’ for a few hyperactive Christians in the church. Missions is the purpose of the church.” — Unknown

“The average pastor views his church as a local church with a missions program; while he ought to realize that if he is in fact pastoring a church, it is to be a global church with a missions purpose.” — Unknown

“Prayer is the mighty engine that is to move the missionary work.” — A.B. Simpson

“The will of God — nothing less, nothing more, nothing else.” — F. E. Marsh (also attributed to Bobby Richardson)

“If the Great Commission is true, our plans are not too big; they are too small.” — Pat Morley

“The history of missions is the history of answered prayer.” — Samuel Zwemer

“‘Go ye’ is as much a part of Christ’s Gospel as ‘Come unto Me.’ You are not even a Christian until you have honestly faced your responsibility in regard to the carrying of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.” — J. Stuart Holden

“A congregation that is not deeply and earnestly involved in the worldwide proclamation of the gospel does not understand the nature of salvation.” — Ted Engstrom, World Vision

“To stay here and disobey God — I can’t afford to take the consequence. I would rather go and obey God than to stay here and know that I disobeyed.” — Amanda Berry Smith

“I believe that in each generation God has called enough men and women to evangelize all the yet unreached tribes of the earth. It is not God who does not call. It is man who will not respond!” — Isobel Kuhn, missionary to China and Thailand

“God is a God of missions. He wills missions. He commands missions. He demands missions. He made missions possible through His Son. He made missions actual in sending the Holy Spirit.” — George W. Peters

“The Church must send or the church will end.” — Mendell Taylor

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