Why Foreign Missionaries Can Be More Effective in US Missions

A Hope for Christianity in the United States

Missionary to America Stanish Stanley

To see a short introductory video of Dr. Stanley, click here.

Let me say up front: the hope for Christianity to grow again in the United States is in the hands of the missionaries to America.  That is why God is sending them to us.

I know there are impediments for those sent by the Lord from outside this country. Sometimes language is a problem. OK. Having to learn a new culture is daunting. I get that. Most will need financial assistance. True. But all in all, what these missionaries bring us is more efficacious.  Stanish Stanley is a case in point.

Stanish grew up in Mumbai, India.  His father was a Lutheran pastor. Even though Christians are a minority in India (about 6% of the population), Christian hospitals, colleges  elementary and high schools are highly valued.

Stanish did well in school, and became an attorney. But God was not finished with him. He became seriously ill and should have died; the Lord restored the Indian man, and led him to give himself to a higher truth, the gospel.  He was eager to share the good news of a God of love, One who had saved Him – for this life and the next.  That is what he taught Christians in India.

It was a challenge to make Christianity understandable to Indian culture. As every good missionary, he listened to the people. From research he did for a doctorate, he learned the early Lutheran missionaries listened – they heard a fear of evil spirits, ghosts, that were ready to repay for sins committed. In response, they preached the presence and protection of the Holy Spirit. The missionaries from another culture took time to understand, and the gospel spoke, spoke to the hearts of the Indian people. And they listened.

Stanish listened to the lives of the Indian people. When a tsunami crushed houses and took lives, the Hindu interpretation was that the sea goddess was taking back what was hers. People lived in fear of such capricious gods. For Stanish, the Christian response was given by a man whose two children were lost in the disaster. Knowing we live in a broken world, the man said “The Lord Jesus has paid for my sins and the sins of my children. I do not fear God. I know I will be with Him and my children in eternity.”

Sent by his church to study in America he saw opportunities to reach out. He listened. to the Americans, and to refugees to America. Today he is privileged to share the God of love with Nepalese immigrants in St. Louis; he also sees the excess love of money and comfort in American culture. His dedication to the gospel and his simple lifestyle are a witness to many in this country – as are the lives of many other missionaries from foreign countries.

In my view, missionaries from outside the United States have an advantage over missionaries who have grown up inside our culture. Why? Besides being able to minister more effectively to immigrants from their own country and culture, in reaching out to US citizens:

  1. They “see” things we do not. Because they come from another culture, they have to study our culture. This makes them more sensitive to the good, and the evil, in our culture. If anyone still does not know America is a mission field, the missionaries to America certainly know it.
  2. Through the missionaries to America, God is giving us a model of how to sacrifice, something necessary on a mission field. They are so passionate about sharing the gospel they will give up anyting. Many suffered in jails and in torture chambers for their faith. Some were shot at, forced out of their countries, leaving everything behind, because of their passion for their Lord. They suffered for the faith. They did not fear rejection. Many churches have come to see the blessings of these “foreign” missionaries to America. Where at first barriers were put up to their ministries, today those barriers have been steadily coming down.
  3. The foreign missionaries are more mission minded than most Christian leaders; they grew up in cultures that demanded missionary actions. They came to America believing God sent them here for a reason – to proclaim the gospel to a hurting people. As Dr. Yared Halche said in this blog some months ago, when he lived in Las Vegas he was moved to tears by the despair he saw in that city. His words were, “Despair is the mayor of Las Vegas.” The missionary from Ethiopia had to share the good news of Jesus in that city. He had no choice.
  4. The foreign missionaries are used to living a simpler life. Their most important “pay” is to be able to freely share Christ, to preach without fear of arrest, to hold worship services and not be afraid of a bomb going off under a pew.
  5. By now everyone knows Christianity is declining in America. Some Christians and Christian leaders have resigned themselves to the idea of a declining church. Too many see withdrawal as a solution, believing, like the third steward in Matthew 25 that “faithfulness” means holding on, rather than stepping out in faith. The missionaries to America see the challenge to Christianity in America not just as a glass half full – but as the reason they were sent to this mission field. They will not stay within the four walls of their church buildings. They will vigorously pursue the mission.

In the video interview we made for this blog, Dr. Stanley shared research he had done on early Lutheran missionaries to India. Many Indian people came to faith, and he wanted to know why. His conclusion was that the missionaries listened, listened to the Indian culture. Because of their critical look at the culture they could hear the cry of the people. It was at that point, Stanish says, the gospel spoke to India.

The gospel is speaking to America through God’s missionaries to America. The message is not just for unbelievers; it is also for the church in America; the foreign missionaries are sent to us as a model of what it means to be “missionary.” . It is a message of encouragement, of sacrifice, of love, of hope. Will we listen?

To see the full thirty minute interview with Dr. Stanley, click here.

 

 

 

“MISSIOLOGY IS THEOLOGY DONE RIGHT”

“Missiology Is Theology Done Right”

So says Missionary to America Professor Victor Raj

(To see the short interview with Prof. Raj, click here)

Prof Raj was born in India, in Trivandrum, Kerala State, six miles from the Arabian sea. He is a Missouri Synod Lutheran, his faith and witness the result of Lutheran missionaries who began mission work in Krishnagiri in 1895.  Krishnagiri is six miles from where St. Thomas first brought Christianity to India. Yes, St. Thomas, as in the Apostle.

Raj grew up as a Lutheran-Christian, one of the twenty eight million Christians in India. His family was well off, and his father planned a future for Victor as a doctor. Someone had a different idea: A missionary from the United States, Herbert Zorn.

Zorn invited the young Mr. Raj to a long dinner. The missionary had seen something special in the young man. Zorn challenged the talented student to consider the impact he could have as a minister of the gospel; he would touch many more lives, and bring healing to the whole person. A “Dr. of the Soul.” The Spirit of God led him into the holy ministry. When he goes back to India, as he does on a regular basis, his classmates who became medical doctors show deference, honoring him for the choice he made.

I cannot remember the last time I invited a talented young woman or man to a long dinner to challenge them to consider full time mission work.  Can you? I hope so.

As a new missionary in the India Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC), Victor rose rapidly in responsibility. It was not long before he was asked to lead a revitalization effort in the IELC – which had grown inward and become too self satisfied. Victor visited three hundred and fifty of eight hundred IELC churches – on his motorcycle. He led Bible studies, and singing and gospel preaching. It had a profound effect on the churches. One evidence of this stands out. The way new missionary/pastors were developed in this Indian church body.

First, a college degree was not a prerequisite for entrance into ministerial training; a student’s spiritual and mission aptitude was what was important.  Formal training  for church workers was not begun until over a century  after Jesus gave the Great Commission.

After formal schooling for the Indian students has been completed, the now “Probationers” are sent out with the assignment to begin a new mission – before ordination.  This experience gives the seminarians not only practical experience, but encourages a missionary approach to their future ministries.

Today Prof. Dr. Victor Raj teaches American seminary students at Concordia Seminary in Clayton, Missouri. He has taught seminary students Religions of the World, and Greek New Testament classes, and he does this with a missionary’s heart. That is one of the reasons he serves as the Editor of the international journal Lutheran Mission Matters. 

Things are different when we know we are on a mission field. The US is just beginning to wake up to this; Christians are realizing a growing decline in conversions and membership. According to The General Social Survey, the percentage of Americans who claim they never go to church has increased – from 10% in 1970 to 28% in 2015.

While progress is being made, seminaries have a long way to go to put in place a missionary mindset, along with actual training for missionary work. We are very concerned about teaching correct theology in our seminaries;  we are still learning how to form missionaries for America. Maybe a corollary to Prof. Raj’s statement would be, “The better theology is missiology done right.”

We have a lot to learn from international leaders like Professor Raj, leaders who who know what a mission field looks like; leaders who know what type of preparation is needed to create missionaries for America. Thank God the United States is seeing more and more immigrant and refugee missionaries from overseas mission fields; hopefully, we will learn from them to.

To see the full, 38 minute interview, click here.

 

 

 

After the Euroclydons

“When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had their opportunity. So they weighed anchor and sailed along, hugging the coast of Crete. But it was not long before a hurricane called the Northeaster swept down across the island. Unable to head into the wind, the ship was caught up. So we gave way and let ourselves be driven along.” Acts 27:14-15

That is how the last months have been for our family.  St. Paul and the crew of the ship bringing him to trial in Rome were  caught in a  (Greek Word) “euroclydon” – cyclone, or hurricane. That is how Lynn and I have felt after two hurricanes: the leaving for heaven of our dear son in law Richard, and then the arrival of Hurricane Irma.

At one point we pretty much “gave way and let ourselves be driven along.” Thus, there has been no blog, no “Giving a voice to missionaries to America,” since July 15.  But, like St. Paul, it was a “giving way to the Lord.” That is why he could say to the crew of the sailing ship, “Keep up your courage, for I have faith in God.” That faith is what sustained us. We are home now, and we are safe. Repairs to home and neighborhood have begun. It is time to get back to “Giving a voice to the missionaries to America.”

This weekend I will be in St. Louis to interview three “missionaries to America.” Trips, cancelled because of the storms, have been planned for Minneapolis and Texas.

Right now I want to tell you about a significant new tool for missionaries, and the leaders they are raising up. We have just published the second volume of Dr. Paul Bruns’  THE MISSION BIBLE COMMENTARY: The Letter to the Hebrews and The Letter to James.  This follows LUKE-ACTS.  As far as we know, this is the only mission commentary on Scripture. Dr. Bruns draws out the mission emphasis in these sacred books. The commentaries deal with deep meanings, but are written in simple English. Paul Bruns wrote the commentaries  especially for new leaders in the church, especially those who speak English as a second language.

The Commentary is free to download in PDF form from the Resource Page of Mission Nation Publishing, www.MissionNationPublishing.org.

To purchase the print edition, click here.

So, to conclude, Lynn and I are at home again. Mission Nation is getting back on track. In other words, as Paul would say, “We gave way and let ourselves be driven along,  and today a “gentle south wind” has begun to blow.”

 

What Has He Done With My Church?

“What Has He Done With My Church?”

Missionary to America Trinidad Castaneda

It was clear to everyone. After more than a century, the church in Arvin, California, had to close.  “New” people had moved in. The majority spoke Spanish, and because of barriers of culture and language, the twenty five people left in the old church were not able to share their love with these new residents. But, instead of selling out and allowing their building to be turned into an apartment or restaurant, they searched for a larger church nearby, one that would honor the soul of the building, one that would use the building as a tool to reach the newcomers. They found that church in St. John Lutheran Church, in nearby Bakersfield.

And St. John, Bakersfield found Missionary to America Trinidad Castaneda. The church did change, and some people wondered, “What has he done with my church?”

“Trini,” as he is known to his friends, came to Chicago when he was five years old.  Born in Durango, Mexico, like many, he and his family followed his father to the US,  searching for a better life.  They settled in Chicago; the commuter train behind the house kept them awake sometimes. Trini had no idea he would grow up to be a missionary to America. However, he found meaning in working with Rev. Julio Loza, pastor of St. Matthew, on 21st street in Chicago.

As he grew into a young man, he helped out at St. Matthew, becoming a youth worker.

He began taking classes in a special program at the Hispanic Institute to prepare Spanish speaking pastors. The courses used an adult, “action-reflection” model. It was “just in time” learning. The courses made more sense to the students because what they taught was needed by the missionary at the time – they gave Trini what he needed to minister to young people. During those days he worked odd jobs; like St. Paul, he was bi vocational. Called to Oklahoma City, he stayed nineteen years, beginning a mission among immigrants from Latin America. That is when the call came to Arvin.

The first thing he did after arriving was to scope out needs of the Arvin community. There was an old service building, where food and clothing was shared with the poor, and where children could come after school for tutoring. The building was in terrible shape.  The new missionary organized a team from the old core group to paint and make repairs on the run down building. Spanish speaking people who used the facility were impressed with the changes, and were more impressed with the concern of this older Anglo church. Missionary Castaneda began worship in Spanish. That was three years ago. Today seventy people worship the Lord there, fifty of them at the Spanish service. And then the missionary did what all good missionaries do.

Trinidad Castaneda began a training course for adults. Seven graduated from that home grown training – and are being challenged to begin study through the Hispanic Institute. Some of them will become missionaries. This is what St. Paul and the other apostles did. This is what missionaries do.

“What has He done with my church?” He has brought a new spirit.  He, the Holy Spirit, has taken hold of that hundred year old church in Arvin – and given it His missionary spirit. Praise the Lord for what He’s done.

To see the two minute introductory video, click here. 

To see the full 27 minute video interview, click here.

 

Temesgen’s Dream

Rev. Temesgen Badsu, Missionary to America

As a boy, Temesgen Badsu remembers the soldiers dragging a group of Christian pastors into the middle of the village square. After the revolution in Ethiopia, a communist government took power. There was no room for God. This was especially difficult because Christianity had been in Ethiopia since ancient times. The New Testament tells us the deacon-evangelist Philip shared the gospel with a government official from Ethiopia (Acts 8:27).

Now, in the public square of the farming village where the boy Temesgen lived, the Christian leaders were beaten and shamed. And killed. This did not kill the desire of the boy to serve the Lord.

The family lost their mother and father. Temesgen quit school to support his brothers and sisters. Borrowing salt and sugar and a few other staples from neighbors, he sold them, and started a small grocery store near the crossroads of the village. His mother’s religious faith reminded him of what was important. With her gone but very much on his mind, he took lay leadership positions in the small church in the village. Eventually the communist government would fall, opening more opportunities for Christians.

Possessing a strong desire to learn English, he spent  Sunday afternoons listening to an English speaking missionary on a portable radio conducting Bible studies from a station in Nairobi, Kenya. Eventually he would go to a Bible College in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. After graduation, he took a leadership position with the group “Doctors Giving Back.” That’s when a greater opportunity presented itself. He mentioned to one of the doctors that he wanted to continue his studies by going to seminary. The doctors were impressed with the young Ethiopian man, and arranged a scholarship for Temesgen at a seminary in San Francisco. Temesgen Badsu saw this as a gift from God’s Holy Spirit.

There are between ten and twenty thousand Ethiopian immigrants in the Bay area. A group that spoke the Oromo language had been praying for a pastor. They didn’t have much; he had less, but he accepted their call. To support himself he became an Uber driver. Later, after he completed a Clinical Pastoral Education program at the University of California Medical College, he found a ministry and an income as a hospital chaplain.

Today he is a missionary in the Bay area. He not only leads an Oromo speaking congregation on Sunday afternoon, but on Sunday morning he leads worship as the pastor of two small Anglo churches.  Temesgen’s dream is to reach all ethnic groups, telling Ethiopian, Hispanic, Asian – all who will listen – how the Lord led him out of immensely difficult times. How the Spirit of Christ is ready to lead them, and all who trust Him. His dream is for them to know God’s grace is boundless, His love is endless, and every immigrant and refugee of every ethnic group has come here by God’s grace, and His plan.

“From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed the exact times and places where they should live. God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.…” Acts 17:26-27

Listen to Temesgen’s dream in this short video.

To see a twenty five minute interview with Rev. Badsu, click here.

 

 

We Need A Change in Missionaries

We Need A Change in Missionaries

Missionary to America Rev. Kai Lee

We need a change. We need in change how we qualify missionaries. Let me be clear: the way we have prepared missionaries in the past is no longer useful.

Most of us are familiar with missionaries  in America who have been sent to begin a new mission to “people like us.” Mostly, these are pastors, who have graduated from a four year post graduate school. They are very proficient in academics. Whether they have the ability to begin a new mission from scratch is debatable. In most cases that is not what they signed up for. Most, like me, went to seminary to be the leader of an existing church. Today we are seeing missionaries come to America  from outside this country, and they come with different skill sets.

The Lord is giving the church in America an infusion of new spiritual strength: missionaries of strong faith and great courage. Missionaries like Kai Lee.

Kai Lee spent his early childhood in the mountain jungles of Laos. A member of the Hmong tribe, Khai’s family fought on the side of America in the Vietnam war. Many friends and family members died fighting for the United States. His older brother fought the Vietnamese Communists, and survived the war. For this reason Kai’s brother was allowed to immigrate to America, which enabled Kai and his mother to settle in Fresno, California.

After high school, the young refugee held several jobs, until he was hired by the US Postal Service – he has worked for the Post Office long enough that he is now ready to retire. But he will not stop working.

Kai Lee stayed at home, volunteered in his church, evangelizing the thousands of Hmong coming to the Fresno area. He studied theology via distance education. He completed the requirements to be ordained through the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology at Concordia Seminary; he did not get an advanced degree; he is a bi-vocational missionary to America.

What is important is that Rev. Lee never left Fresno to go to a far away seminary for the typical four years. If he had left, he would have lost his job with the Post Office, and the mission he was leading would have folded. Instead, Kai Lee was able to stay in Fresno and complete the four year program.

The congregation worships one hundred on Sundays, This Easter he baptized ten new Christians. His church has Hmong, Laotian and other SE Asian members.

If you attend a traditional seminary you receive (mostly) generic preparation, to be the pastor of a church. That is how things are done in a Christian culturet. Seminary on a mission field is different. On a mission field local leaders need to be identified, formed and equipped for the culture of the people they will serve. I learned this from an African American congregation in Detroit, Michigan.

Years ago I was involved in  helping a mainstream White congregation in the city sell its building. The once active congregation had dwindled to less than twenty five worshipers,  not enough to afford the upkeep of the building. A growing African American congregation purchased the white church’s building. As I spoke with the pastor he told me he had a full time job at the Post Office. He explained to me something I had not known about Black churches.

New churches in the African American community generally were started by a Black pastor, not a denomination. The first thing the pastor of the planned church would do was to meet with each of the pastors already in ministry in the city, to ask for their advice, and support. Where was the best area to begin? What should they look out for? Would they be willing to encourage any of their members to join the new mission? Would they help fund the start up? Only those with the faith to take risks and the ability to start something new from scratch could do this.

Of course all the early Christian missionaries were bi-vocational. They had a calling that surpassed the need for a title or a regular salary. Kai Lee began the mission before he was ordained. He had been recognized by the people of Peace Lutheran in Fresno as someone who had the gifts necessary to begin a mission field. He was someone they were willing to support.

Have we professionalized the calling of “missionary” so much that we have excluded those whose academic ability may not be at a graduate level, but who have the ability to bring many to faith in Jesus? I think so. I think we need a change in the type of person we call to the mission field, and a change in how we prepare them for ministry. I also believe it is a change only some in the American Church are ready for.

To see the full eighteen minute video interview with Missionary Lee, click here.

To see a short introductory video, click here. 

Forsaking My Father’s Religion

Forsaking My Father’s Religion

Missionary To America Mohamad Faridi

According to an online article on the Wycliffe Bible Translators website, sixteen thousand Muslims come to Christ every day. The article gives astounding figures regarding conversion of Muslims to Christianity from several Muslim nations: 1 million Egyptians have come to faith in Jesus in the past decade; the largest Christian congregation in the Middle East meets in “an enormous cave on the outskirts of Cairo, where 10,000 Christian believers worship every weekend.” Thousands of Muslims in Iraq have converted since Saddam was overthrown. More than one million Sudanese have converted to Christianity since 2,000 AD. The article quotes Muslim Sheikh Ahamad al Qataani telling Aljazeera television, “Every year six million Muslims convert to Christianity. A tragedy has happened.”

Even though the article shared information about Christian conversions in several Middle East Muslim countries, one was conspicuously absent: Iran,  where Mohamad Faridi was brought up. Like St. Paul, Acts 22:3, he was as zealous for his former faith as anyone could be. As part of a Shiite ceremony, at one point he beat himself for nine days, with chains. On the tenth day, when he tried to continue, he collapsed.

Mohamad joined Iran’s Revolutionary Army when he was eighteen years old. He chose to experience what it might feel like to be a martyr when challenged to lie down in an open grave. He was as committed as any Iranian militant to war against “enemies of Islam.” Israel and America headed the list. And then everything changed. What once seemed impossible, happened.

Mohamad heard the gospel from a friend in Iran, the good news that a God of love became present in this world to show His concern for His creation. Up to now the only god Mohamad has known was a god of anger; a god who required all to submit to him. Mohamad knew he would never be able to please this god, no matter how many beatings he inflicted on himself. He knew he was on a “path to destruction.” His friend shared a precious New Testament with Mohamad.

Back home, alone in his bedroom, he read the New Testament, and he prayed. The more he prayed, and the more he read Jesus’ words, the more the love of the Heavenly Father poured into his soul. Mohamad remembers feeling a peace and a love he had never experienced before, cascading over him. When he finally told his family he had become a Christian, as they say, “all hell broke loose.” His father beat him and said,  “leave this house – you are no longer my son.” Kicked out of his family, he found refuge in another family, the family of God, the Iranian underground church.

Mohamad spent months, going from house to house, meeting warm, loving believers in Jesus. He was also in constant danger. Eventually he was able to escape to Turkey, but even there, with a name like “Mohamad,” being a Christian put him at risk. With the help of the United Nations he was brought to America. Now, he wants all Muslims to know the peace he found.

On the video interview I conducted with Mohamad, he says: “When you look at my life, I was a hard core, fanatical Muslim. If no one spoke up, and spoke the gospel to me, what would have happened to me? These people are reachable.”

Amen

To see a two minute excerpt of a video interview with Mohamad, click here.

To see the full interview with Mohamad Faridi, click here.

To learn more about Mohamad Faridi and Destination Ministries, and to receive a free copy of Mohamad’s book, Forsaking My Father’s Religion, go to his website, DNMI.org

 

 

The Choice a Missionary Makes

 The Choice A Missionary Makes

Missionary to America Dawit Bokre

When Dawit Bokre was thirteen, he was living in Eritrea, East Africa. The boy had lost both his parents. Even though he spoke no English, his older brothers and sisters decided it would be best for him to go to America. He would live with a brother who had already emigrated to Boston.  What if that were you? Imagine what it would have been like, a teenager, suddenly planted in a world you knew little about, whose language was a puzzle. Dawit was giving up everything. Why? For what?

Dawit and his family had been integral parts of a church in Eritrea begun by Swedish Lutheran missionaries, which now has eleven million members: the Evangelical Church of Eritrea. This church body has more members than any US Lutheran denomination, on a continent that has more Lutherans than North America.  Dawit would have to be led, like Jesus in the wilderness, by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1). And what a journey it would turn out to be.

Intelligent, resourceful,  Dawit learned English, and graduated from high school. It was then that the Lord presented an important choice to the now seventeen year old immigrant. Not only had the Spirit led Dawit across an ocean, now he was called as an evangelist, half a continent away in Texas. It was a daunting choice to make for anyone, let alone a seventeen year old.

An older friend from Eritrea, now in Houston, Texas, had summoned Dawit to a ministry as an evangelist to help begin new mission. Dawit chose to forgo college and enter a life of sharing Jesus  in Houston. To support himself he worked odd jobs. After two years, the Spirit said “Enough. You are ready.” A group of Eritreans in the Oakland Bay area of California needed a worship leader: “Dawitt, will you come be our pastor?” This required another half continent move, and another sacrifice of friends, of home, of work. It is a choice missionaries often have to make – to leave behind everything familiar to them and put themselves in the hands of God. What did the Lord have in mind. Was it worth it?

“Peter said, ‘Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You.’ And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Luke 18:28-30)

Guided by the Spirit, nineteen year old Dawit Bokre arrived in Oakland to find a passionate but small group of Eritreans, eager to form a church to worship and to serve Jesus. Of course, the group was too small to pay much. No matter. Dawit again found work where he could, finally ending up working in a warehouse. The budding mission was provided a venue for worship at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Hayward. The senior pastor was eager to have these African Lutherans be a part of the Anglo church’s ministry. One cultural difference between African and American Christians is their passion for sharing their love for God. The Africans do not know how to be silent about their faith in Jesus.

Dawit decided to enter a distance education program sponsored by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. It was not an easy choice. Working as an intern under the pastor of Good Shepherd, and with increased responsibilities at the warehouse, trying to pastor an energetic and growing church, it took Dawit five years to complete the program.

As the Anglo population declined in the Hayward community, immigrants were taking their place. Not just Eritreans, but other Africans, and Asians and Hispanics. Many of these were young, 1.5 and second generation immigrants, just the group to relate to a now twenty-something immigrant missionary: a pool of potential disciples right at  Dawit’s doorstep. It was apparent why the Lord had chosen to bring Dawit to America. You could say it was a match made in heaven.

Dawit became part of the management team at his “other” job; he was making a lot more money at the warehouse, and had responsibility for eight hundred employees. He now had the income he needed to support himself and his new wife, another immigrant from Eritrea. They had a good life. That’s when another choice had to be made. You see, as the Anglo church was declining, the Eritrean church was growing. Plus, there was an opportunity to begin an English ministry with the 1.5 and second generation young immigrants taking the places of the Anglos in Hayward. Dawit could not work at the growing church and at the warehouse.

The lay leaders of the Eritrean church, concerned for his well being and the health of the congregation, told him he had to decide: work at the warehouse or minister at the church. Dawit Bokre chose to leave his position at the warehouse to devote himself full time to reaching a kaleidoscope of immigrants, young and old, rich and poor. He made that choice with a passion that reflected the love of his Lord.

Dawit made many choices, but the most important choice wasn’t his. God chose Dawit to be a missionary in America. Dawit then followed the Spirit of Jesus from Africa, to Boston, to Houston and now Hayward. Maybe another door will open, another opportunity to bring God’s love to hurting people. If that happens, Dawit Bokre will have another choice to make. He will make that choice, as all missionaries do, with the confidence that God had chosen him, and that God’s Holy Spirit would guide him to accomplish His will. That is the missionary’s choice.

“And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

To see a two minute introduction to Dawit Bokre, click here.

To see the full twenty two minute video of Dawit’s journey, click here.

 

The Choice a Missionary Makes

 The Choice A Missionary Makes

Missionary to America Dawit Bokre

When Dawit Bokre was thirteen, he was living in Eritrea, East Africa. The boy had lost both his parents. Even though he spoke no English, his older brothers and sisters decided it would be best for him to go to America. He would live with a brother who had already emigrated to Boston.  What if that were you? Imagine what it would have been like, a teenager, suddenly planted in a world you knew little about, whose language was a puzzle. Dawit was giving up everything. Why? For what?

Dawit and his family had been integral parts of the Lutheran Church in Eritrea, a church with more members than any US Lutheran denomination, on a continent that has more Lutherans than North America.  Dawit would have to be led, like Jesus in the wilderness, by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1). And what a journey it would turn out to be.

Intelligent, resourceful,  Dawit learned English, and graduated from high school. It was then that the Lord presented an important choice to the now seventeen year old immigrant. Not only had the Spirit led Dawit across an ocean, now he was called as an evangelist, half a continent away in Texas. It was a daunting choice to make for anyone, let alone a seventeen year old.

An older friend from Eritrea, now in Houston, Texas, had summoned Dawit to a ministry as an evangelist to help begin new mission. Dawit chose to forgo college and enter a life of sharing Jesus  in Houston. To support himself he worked odd jobs. After two years, the Spirit said “Enough. You are ready.” A group of Eritreans in the Oakland Bay area of California needed a worship leader: “Dawitt, will you come be our pastor?” This required another half continent move, and another sacrifice of friends, of home, of work. It is a choice missionaries often have to make – to leave behind everything familiar to them and put themselves in the hands of God. What did the Lord have in mind. Was it worth it?

“Peter said, ‘Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You.’ And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Luke 18:28-30)

Guided by the Spirit, nineteen year old Dawit Bokre arrived in Oakland to find a passionate but small group of Eritreans, eager to form a church to worship and to serve Jesus. Of course, the group was too small to pay much. No matter. Dawit again found work where he could, finally ending up working in a warehouse. The budding mission was provided a venue for worship at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Hayward. The senior pastor was eager to have these African Lutherans be a part of the Anglo church’s ministry. One cultural difference between African and American Christians is their passion for sharing their love for God. The Africans do not know how to be silent about their faith in Jesus.

Dawit decided to enter a distance education program sponsored by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. It was not an easy choice. Working as an intern under the pastor of Good Shepherd, and with increased responsibilities at the warehouse, trying to pastor an energetic and growing church, it took Dawit five years to complete the program.

As the Anglo population declined in the Hayward community, immigrants were taking their place. Not just Eritreans, but other Africans, and Asians and Hispanics. Many of these were young, 1.5 and second generation immigrants, just the group to relate to a now twenty-something immigrant missionary: a pool of potential disciples right at  Dawit’s doorstep. It was apparent why the Lord had chosen to bring Dawit to America. You could say it was a match made in heaven.

Dawit became part of the management team at his “other” job; he was making a lot more money at the warehouse, and had responsibility for eight hundred employees. He now had the income he needed to support himself and his new wife, another immigrant from Eritrea. They had a good life. That’s when another choice had to be made. You see, as the Anglo church was declining, the Eritrean church was growing. Plus, there was an opportunity to begin an English ministry with the 1.5 and second generation young immigrants taking the places of the Anglos in Hayward. Dawit could not work at the growing church and at the warehouse.

The lay leaders of the Eritrean church, concerned for his well being and the health of the congregation, told him he had to decide: work at the warehouse or minister at the church. Dawit Bokre chose to leave his position at the warehouse to devote himself full time to reaching a kaleidoscope of immigrants, young and old, rich and poor. He made that choice with a passion that reflected the love of his Lord.

Dawit made many choices, but the most important choice wasn’t his. God chose Dawit to be a missionary in America. Dawit then followed the Spirit of Jesus from Africa, to Boston, to Houston and now Hayward. Maybe another door will open, another opportunity to bring God’s love to hurting people. If that happens, Dawit Bokre will have another choice to make. He will make that choice, as all missionaries do, with the confidence that God had chosen him, and that God’s Holy Spirit would guide him to accomplish His will. That is the missionary’s choice.

“And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

To see a two minute introduction to Dawit Bokre, click here.

To see the full twenty two minute video of Dawit’s journey, click here.

 

The Light That Converted Gagan Garung

The Light that Converted Gagan Garung

Gagan Garung, Evangelist from Nepal
 Evangelist Gagan Garung

Gagan Garung had decided to never become a Christian.

Because he was a child from a Nepalese family growing up in Bhutan, he was on the receiving end of discrimination known by many Nepalese who lived in Bhutan. He did not want to give his Bhutanese Buddhist neighbors another reason to make his life difficult. When his brother, sister in law and their children were baptized, he refused to be included. In fact, he ran from the river where the baptism was supposed to take place, and found refuge in a Hindu temple high in the mountains. A loving Christian pastor refused to give up.

In time, Gagan’s family fled Bhutan to return to Nepal. They left on a bus in the deepest darkness of night, and arrived in a refugee camp in Nepal. They spent the next twenty years in that refugee camp. In one way at least this was a blessing; Gagan could not escape the love and concern of a pastor who kept in close touch.

At one point the pastor suggested Gagan should attend a Bible College just across the border in India. Some of you  know the rest of the story: When he arrived at the Bible College, even though he could understand the language of the Indian teachers, the words in the Bible just did not make sense. Other young men from Nepal had the same experience; many left the school. Gagan thought of quitting. Then, the miracle.

The school headmaster called for a twenty four hour prayer vigil. Gagan was assigned the midnight to  1 am time to pray. Arriving at the prayer room, he folded his hands, bowed his head, closed his eyes – and was shaken to the core of his soul. A brilliant white light blanketed the skeptical, fearful, young man. This light brought understanding. He found that now when he opened his Bible, it all made sense. It was the light that converted Gagan Garung, the light of God’s Holy Spirit.

After many years in the refugee camp, Gagan came to America. He is now an evangelist in St. Louis, Missouri. But that is not the only thing that is important about Gagan’s experience “in the light.” Maybe God brought Gagan here to share with Western rationalists an ancient insight.

We in the western world rely on the cognitive process of logical reasoning. What I mean is, to be “real” for the western mind has to be able to be verified, and has to be able to be repeated. In other words, we work from a scientific, mechanistic, viewpoint. We like to think of ourselves as rational. But everything does not obey human reason. In fact, the primal sin, the sin of Adam and Eve, is thinking we know more than God. We think we can know everything. Certainly by now we should know better.

What I mean is, at one time we were certain that leaches could cure disease, that heavy objects fell faster than light objects and that the universe had been and would continue to be infinite. All of these accepted truths later were shown to be wrong. My point: we do not know everything that is or is not possible.

Gagan Garung became a Christian after a bright light blanketed him, and (as he believes) made it possible for him to understand and accept the message of the Bible. My rational mind does not accept this. The light of the Holy Spirit tells me it is true. Perhaps our culture will someday learn truths not understandable to the human mind. Perhaps we need more accounts of miracles,  like the one from Evangelist Garung.

To see a short introductory interview to Evangelist Garung’s story, click here.

To see the full video interview, click here.