Although most of us face economic challenges, do we Americans really know anything about ‘survival challenges’ in our daily lives?
Where is our next morsel of food coming from? After walking five miles with a container in each arm, will the water hole be dry? Will I be arrested for telling someone about Jesus?
Do our daily challenges in any way resemble the ‘survival challenges’ facing the pastors and evangelists in Kenya, Congo, Uganda, India, Myanmar or Pakistan, where we have ministry partners?
It’s confession time. The intensity and commitment these men have for prayer, praise, preaching and church planting leaves me embarrassed. If we honestly analyzed what they do, and what we actually do in American churches, most of us – individuals and church congregations — would be embarrassed.
In America, most Christians are too blessed to be depressed. We absolutely know we’re not going to die of thirst or starvation even as we’re challenged to carry out the Great Commission. However, in order for our ministry partners to fulfill the Great Commission, they must do so with few material possessions and at great personal risk.
In America, we have everything we need to plant spiritual seeds and reap a spiritual harvest – heated-and-cooled brick and mortar facilities, unlimited copies of the Bible in our language, easy-access transportation (vehicles, fuel and roads to everywhere), and easy-access communications (phones, flyers, print, broadcast and social media, and dependable Internet service).
To carry out the Great Commission, pastors in America challenge congregations who already have all the necessities of life. In contrast, our ministry partners are challenging congregations who have nothing!
See the difference?
The ministry of these pastors and evangelists is the foundation of everything that Harvesters does. Yet, it’s more difficult to get believers to financially support pastors and evangelists than it is to raise funds for a pig project or water well.
Please, don’t get me wrong. Money to support agricultural projects and drill water wells is essential to the effectiveness of the Harvesters ministry. But there is a laxity in supporting pastors and evangelists and I suppose it’s because most of us don’t understand how they function, and I’m guilty of not sharing the need. I’ve been there and seen it, and I still don’t understand how they survive, much less plant and grow churches, and win and disciple souls for Christ.
Although it has been subtle, God has been busy rearranging the ministry’s priorities. It’s probably been happening for a couple of years.
We continue to help our partners develop specific agricultural projects intended to provide food and ministry support, and we continue to seek funding to drill more fresh water wells so they can survive, but we are also placing a greater emphasis on training and discipleship and focusing on long-term impact, as opposed to routinely trying to meet immediate needs.
Our ministry partners are being encouraged to plan and execute their own visions and share with the Harvesters board how we can best help them accomplish their goals.
As is often the case when I’m asked to write an article, I find myself too close to the story.
I’ve been writing and reporting news stories for more than 50 years as a radio broadcaster and newspaper publisher. I shouldn’t have “writer’s block,” but I frequently do. In my case, my mind is often jam packed with so much ministry information that I struggle to find a starting place.
A few months back, after struggling to focus on an article, I messaged Sandi Roach, the ministry’s office manager on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Technically, her title is Administrator/Asian Coordinator. That means she works closely with Ed Hirshman, director, and Jonathan Lancaster, our African/Orphan Sponsorship Coordinator.
To appreciate what I’m about to say, you need to know that Sandi served in many capacities in the secular world before becoming involved in missions in 1998. She has a strong background in accounting and has served in many countries.
I also sought inspiration from other board members as well as the newest member of our Harvesters administrative team, J. Lucarelli, who has led many survey and mission teams to ministry partners in five different countries, and they weren’t always 10- to 14-day trips either. He lived among the Pokot in western Kenya for five months.
A few minutes after making the email inquiry, I heard from Sandi. “When I look at ministries to support I always want to know three things,” she said. I quickly realized that her questions were like arrows hitting the bull’s eye. This is where the ‘rubber hits the road,’ I thought. This is what God’s people need to know.
What percentage of my support is going to the person that I designate it for?
What kind of lifestyle is the person that I am supporting actually living?
What does their workday look like, and are they planting seeds [and harvesting spiritual fruit]?
It was instantly clear to me what needed to be said about the ‘survival challenges’ facing the pastors and evangelists. For one thing, our ministry partners are servants of the Lord. They give and give, and sacrifice and sacrifice, and God honors their Kingdom efforts.
What’s happening among these ministry partners?
The growth of the orphan ministry and the pastoral and evangelism training in Kenya was stretching Julius Murgor, the director of the African ministry, and he will realize some relief this year for the first time as the Pokot Outreach Ministry (POM) has a new administrator.
God’s people have funded the “pilot” farm project, and the orphan sponsorship project, as well as generating funds for administration of the orphan project. Pastor Philip continues to grow his ministry and move toward self-sufficiency with the school and farm projects that he has started with help from ministry partners in the U.S.
In Pokot, the church is sacrificially giving to support their pastors, but it is usually not enough, especially in remote preaching points and church plants where the church is newly established. Bicycles were purchased for evangelists in East Pokot.
Here are a couple of J. Lucarelli’s additional Pokot insights:
“I was very encouraged at what I saw in East Pokot where the pastor continues to have a heart for church planting, but is limited by his health. He knows that he needs to be training and pouring himself into the lives of other men and women in order to carry out God’s calling on his life.”
“At one of the medical clinics I saw a man that looked familiar. Come to find out, he was an evangelist that has been involved in the ministry since before Harvesters built the mission station at Loiwat and he was recently part of the evangelist team that resulted in the planting of a church in the location where we were having the clinic. Unfortunately, he has another job to support his family, so he isn’t able to do ministry as much as he would like.”
“And when Loiwat was without a pastor, the headmaster of the primary school stepped up to lead the church, which is thriving under his leadership.”
A medical mission was held for the first time in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). The team members reported many wellness stories but the greatest story was about their encouragement to the local church and the miracle of salvation as many people accepted Christ. Pastors in Congo are preaching and planting churches all over North Kivu.
In India, a newly trained pastor has been added to help with the village home churches, and the Widows’ Ministry is thriving.
The two Christian schools in the Ujjain area, under the guidance of Kamlesh and Ranu Bairwa, are filled to overflowing with 130 and 170 students, respectively – poorest of the poor, from pre-school through eighth. The ministry, which uses its educational facilities to open doors so that the love of Christ can be shared, is finally ready to construct a new school, although a school bus is still desperately needed to expand the ministry’s impact in the villages.
Harold and Josephine Stevens enjoyed a longtime relationship with Ranu’s parents, Dr. Jacob and Dr. Rosie, even before Harvesters partnered with the Good Samaritan Sewa Kendra (GSSK) ministry. Harold served for years on the board of directors of Harvesters. At the time of his death on April 17, 2007, the ministry was prepared to honor Harold’s memory by raising funds for the ministry in India through the Harold Stevens Memorial Fund.
However, at the time there were many obstacles to building a new school, and Kamlesh and Dr. Jacob suggested the project be delayed. Recently, Dr. Jacob reported that conditions have changed. Consequently, a $5,000 payment was transferred to India to pay for updated drawings and cost estimates. God is moving in His perfect time.
In Pakistan, the pastors present the love and saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in spite of great persecution. Please pray diligently for this difficult ministry and particularly for the health of Pastor Bashir.
Pastor Sam is seeing tremendous growth in the local church despite a strong Muslim influence. Evangelistic campaigns are being held regularly and have included many lay people from the local churches. These campaigns are incorporating Evangecube training.
Our ministry partners in Myanmar successfully started a Bible College last year and continue to care for orphans, promote education, and conduct evangelistic campaigns and Evangecube training.
A pig farming operation is supporting some of the Christian outreach. A ‘rice paddy’ project is being started to support additional outreach and a pickup truck is desperately needed.
Are we sacrificing?
I have many friends who are pastors – godly men who would give the shirt off their back to help someone in need. But none of my friends share about God’s love or the resurrection power of Jesus Christ in an environment that is physically challenging, much less life-threatening.
In my own life, I have walked nearly two miles in the dead of winter down my steep Western North Carolina mountain drive to the two-lane paved road along the creek that leads to my church. I did this because the snow and ice were too treacherous to drive on, and I teach an adult Bible study class.
However, on these special occasions, I leave home after breakfast, walk out of a warm house dressed in thermals and a warm coat and toboggan, and step through the snow wearing wool-lined boots, and I arrive at a warm and dry church house.
That’s not a sacrifice!
A sacrifice is walking bare-footed on a rocky trail all day to get to a ‘preaching point’ and your last meal was three days ago.
A sacrifice is going without clean drinking water for three days (and not even drinking dirty water for two days).
A sacrifice is telling someone about Jesus at the risk of being executed. In Pakistan, proselytizing can bring an immediate death sentence.
A sacrifice is to have no place to lay your head at night that you can call home, because Muslim or Buddhist ‘fanaticals’ have forced you to flee, and hide. Yet, you continue to tell others about Jesus.
A sacrifice is when your own family does without necessities because your meager resources are being used to assist orphans, widows, poor families, and sick people.
A sacrifice is continuing to tell people about Jesus, when nearby villages have been pillaged by uncontrolled soldiers who prefer to prey on Christians whenever they can be found.
How do these pastors and evangelists survive? My only answer is by the grace of God.
If you give one dollar to Harvesters and designate it for pastoral support, all one hundred cents will make it to pastors. There’s no middleman. No administrative cost. No delay.
Is it possible that your mission-minded American church will choose to designate some lump sum gifts for pastoral support this year, whether it’s in Pakistan, India, Congo, Myanmar, Uganda or Kenya? The field is ripe for harvest.
One of the pastors in Pakistan, where Christians are not welcome, has endured serious health issues in recent months – vomiting, dehydration, and diabetes — and has been admitted to a hospital. I have no idea what kind of care this man is receiving. The pastor’s son sent an email message to Harvesters and stated in the first sentence that, “my papa is in Hospital.”
In the next few sentences, in broken English, the young man began telling about recent miracles:
One pastor taught book of creation and a Muslim family was “changed” and “accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.”
This young man’s brother prayed for someone who had a kidney problem and “God heal him.”
Another family had no child and a pastor prayed for them, and God answered prayer, and gave them a baby.
This young man, intervening for his sick father, wanted us to know that “God is doing good thing for His Name and Grace.” Only in the last sentence of his brief email did the son ask us to pray for his father.
These true stories from a November 3, 2011 email could just as easily have come from partners in other countries. As J. Lucarelli stated, “As a result of all of these reasons it is our opportunity, blessing, and responsibility to come along side them to encourage and assist their initiative and calling.” If light doesn’t occupy the land, darkness will.
J.’s decision to join the administrative team as the Lord provides was a blessing but it came at a sad time in 2011 when one Harvesters board member retired (Roy Graves) and another graduated to his heavenly home (Gardiner Brower). Both of these men made indelible contributions to the Harvesters ministry.
Thank you to the individuals, families, pastors, and church congregations that have done the same.