Ecuador, Israel, and Peru
Ecuador, Israel, and Peru
What do you do when nothing is working?
Ronnie, an Every Community for Christ (ECC) worker in the Philippines, faced such a question. Ronnie has a very pleasing and likable personality, but he also has a profound hearing loss. Unable to afford a good set of hearing aids, Ronnie struggled with making contacts, evangelizing, discipling, and planting new churches. He tried everything, but nothing was working.
That is … until the Christmas season came.
The mayor of Ronnie’s community approached him and asked Ronnie if he would make the Christmas star that would represent the community in the contest among the communities in their area. Ronnie agreed, but the project was bigger than he could handle. So, he enlisted help from the police department, who got the prisoners in their local jails involved.
Christmas passed. The star represented the community well, but Ronnie was not finished with his contacts with the prisoners. He started visiting the local jail. He began Bible studies within the cells. He sought out resources the prisoners needed like food, fans, checkerboards, and more. The prisoners accepted him. Prayer support grew. Prisoners entered a relationship with Christ. They got baptized. Ronnie began to reach out to other prisons, and to the families of prisoners. Ronnie had found his niche in ministry.
Today, Ronnie ministers within 10 different provincial jails in the Philippines. He has baptized over 150 prisoners. He sees an average attendance of 372 prisoners in worshiping groups or “cell churches” in the prisons. Ronnie is seeing lives transformed. He is equipping leaders who can assist in the ministry and start house churches when they are discharged into the community again.
Ronnie now has a partner in the ministry. He met a man named Jaimie in the prison. He helped Jaimie enter a relationship with Christ and discipled him. Jaimie was serving a life sentence for using and selling narcotics (and related crimes). Through a turn of events demonstrating God’s intervention, Jaime was released and is now committed to doing all he can to go back into the prisons with the Gospel. He wants to disciple those who make decisions for Christ.
Feeling like nothing is working for you? Persevere like Ronnie. God may have a wonderful role in ministry for you to step into, just like Ronnie, to help others hear, understand, and respond to the Gospel.
The Philippines – a Christian nation. Not really. In its research, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) revealed that 90,500,000 Filipinos have never experienced a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That represents 90.5% of the population.
Our Every Community for Christ (ECC) leadership team there knew that without some change, we would never make a significant dent in this statistic. We went to prayer. After four days, the Juan Project emerged.
The name for the Juan Project comes from the name Juan Dela Cruz (Juan for short), which has come to represent every Filipino individually and all Filipinos together. The aim of the Juan Project is to reach every “Juan” in five different provinces (Aurora, Leyte, Pangasinan, Samar, and Tarlac), and two people groups (students in the five provinces and Overseas Filipino Workers in 10 countries). We desire to plant a healthy, reproducing church in every sitio or purok (the smallest governing unit in the Philippines) in the five provinces. And, we will plant a healthy student ministry at each of the public college and university campuses in the five provinces.
We have completed the first year of the Juan Project. The first six months started slowly. In those months, we focused on building capacity, raising prayer support, building partnerships, offering training, and continuing to support the other ministries of OMS Philippines as they have contributed signiﬁcantly to the saturation vision of The Juan Project. The fruit has come in the past six months.
In terms of capacity, we have grown from seven church multiplication facilitators (CMFs) to 25 CMFs and associate CMFs. Each works in a province to come alongside churches and organizations to cast vision, train, coach, encourage, provide prayer support, and instill accountability. We also have 54 trained facilitators who form the training teams to equip lay people to reach their families and communities for Christ. One hundred and fourteen new prayers groups have formed. Prayer walks and overnight prayer meetings are common. We work with at least 30 partners. And, in the last year, we have held 54 trainings, involving 895 people from over 100 churches.
The results: 216 groups started, 361 people equipped and mobilized, and 1,913 people who have entered into a relationship with Christ. A small but important turnaround.
Pastors now testify that their passion for church planting is rekindled, their perspective challenged, and their minds opened to church multiplication. PTL!
In Colombia, Bridge to Reading works with Satura Colombia, a network of OMS churches focused on saturating the country with the Gospel. Bridge to Reading empowers churches to use literacy as a tool for ministering to unreached communities. B2R wants to give every person in Colombia and beyond the opportunity to hear, understand, and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The work started in Antioquia and has since expanded into other states. The program designates those who do not know how to read as persons of peace. Our tutors then use a story from the literacy primer Nuevos Caminos to teach one or two students at a time.
Led initially by Jonathan Tobon Restrepo, and now by Ximena Cardona, Bridge to Reading in Colombia has conducted 18 tutor training workshops, trained 184 tutors, and has taught 81 people to read since 2014. Their students are varied in age with some being as young as 16 and as old as 67.
Guillermo, from Amaga, Colombia, has learned how to read with the help of a Bridge to Reading tutor. In this video, he shares his joy as he reads John 3: 1-3. Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply, Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
Pray for the work in Colombia, and especially for Ximena as she leads the program. She will be attending a five-week literacy training institute at Literacy & Evangelism International in Tulsa, Oklahoma this summer.
Your giving will go a long way toward providing resources for learners such as primers, books, and pencils, as well as for tutoring resources such as chalk and chalkboards for our learning centers.
Bridge to Reading literacy ministry is a powerful evangelism tool that God is using to help many learn to read the Bible.
A gift of $50 will provide a chalkboard and school supplies for a group of literacy learners.
A gift of $20 will provide literacy primers and will enable one person learn to read the Bible.
Sharing the Gospel can be challenging and can bring on all kinds of uncomfortable feelings, especially at first. You might feel:
Maybe even nausea.
Statistics would show that more than 60 percent of all church going Christians never share their faith. Here are 3 good reasons to be part of the 40 percent that do share their faith regularly:
Go to any news site or just talk to a few friends, and you will quickly discover that darkness is real in the world today. Right now, worldwide, 350 million people are suffering from depression. Cancer will claim over 8 million lives this year alone. Since you started reading this blog someone somewhere has decided that their life is hopeless and has committed suicide. Think about people you know for a minute. Do you know anyone who has had cancer or is depressed? Can you think of someone who struggles with addiction or maybe struggles with loneliness or self-worth and copes with that through sex?
People are hurting, sick, and lost. After the fall of man, sin became this cancer on humanity. It is constantly eating away at everything that is good in order to keep us hurting in the dark. Sin is the disease, and Jesus is the only cure. If you know Jesus, you have a light that can dispel any darkness. You have medicine that can heal any sickness. You have a love that can comfort even the loneliest soul. This is the Good News that the world needs hear.
2. You have a unique story.
In Luke 8, Jesus heals a man who had a demon tormenting him. In verse 39, Jesus said, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” Jesus knew that he could reach the lost in his homeland with his story.
Throughout the Bible, we see the power in sharing testimonies. For example, Paul, who came to know Jesus in a drastic way, shared his testimony everywhere he went and with everyone he met, including King Agrippa whose father beheaded the apostle James and arrested Peter in an attempt to kill him. This is what he says after hearing Paul’s testimony, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” The beloved, John, writes in Revelation 12:11 that we overcome the accuser by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. You have your own story of how you were transformed by the Gospel, and God will put people in your path that need to hear it. There is power in your testimony. Share it.
3. God has called ALL of us to share the Good News.
It is easy to decide that sharing the Gospel is for pastors or TV evangelists, but the truth is that God calls every believer in Matthew 28:19 when Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” In Acts 1:8 Jesus said “And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” He didn’t say “some of you” for a reason. Sure, we all have different gifts and strengths that God will use for different purposes in his kingdom, but all of us, including you and me, are called to be witnesses of what he has done.
Sharing the Gospel can be intimidating, but once you overcome the initial fear and anxiety, it is incredibly rewarding. Do you remember what it felt like to be lost in darkness? Think back to what life was like without Jesus, without hope. Now remember what you felt when you said "yes" to the person of Jesus Christ. Remember the joy? Let that memory be a force that drives you to allow God to use you to rescue others.
“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” Charles Spurgeon
If you are now asking yourself how to share the Gospel, click here for tips.
To join the movement, go to Billion.Global Vision.
One Mission Society is the founding partner of the Billion.Global Vision, which aims to give a billion people an opportunity to hear, understand, and believe the Good News of Jesus Christ . We pray that God will take our efforts and multiply them so that over a 10-year period (July 2016 - July 2026), at least one billion people will have the opportunity to respond to the Gospel.
Let’s be honest, sharing the Gospel is intimidating. Why? Just as public speaking causes great anxiety for many people across the nations so does evangelism. This fear may derive from an innate desire to be liked among our fellow humans. Sometimes, we have to receive a little push out of our comfort zone to overcome this fear.
That is what it took for me. God pushed me out of my comfort zone by sending me on a short-term mission trip to Cap Haitien, Haiti, where I participated in door-to-door evangelism in a rural village with no electricity or running water, but with a rich voodoo presence. As the team prepared to go out, fear and anxiety took the lead in our minds. I could tell from the facial expressions of my teammates that I wasn’t the only who felt ill equipped and a little shaky when thinking about confronting a witch doctor with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We met with the local pastor in this rural village, went over the evangelism technique we were to use, prayed together, and then set out on our mission. The visit to the first home was a little rough. My partner and I equally had no clue what to say. Despite the brief evangelism overview prior to going out, we had no true training or preparation to “properly” share the Gospel. I kept frantically praying in the back of my mind for the Spirit to speak through me, but was met with what felt like silence from the Lord. As we approached the fifth house, I felt the Spirit nudge me saying, “Just share what I have done in your life, like Paul did.” So, I told my partner to give the presentation of the Gospel, and I would share my testimony.
We greeted the five boys who were sitting outside of the home, and I felt the Lord with me. I knew he was going to do something miraculous. Even though there was a language and cultural barrier, as I shared my testimony, I could see one boy, who seemed to be the leader of the group, genuinely connected with my story. His name is Johnny. The Lord clearly drew my attention toward him, which set him apart from the group. When I was done sharing, I simply asked if they would like to have a story of transformation similar to mine by giving their life to Jesus. They all said yes! As we said the prayer of repentance, all the boys, except Johnny, slowly stopped repeating the words in the prayer. Later, we walked by the house on our way back to the church and Johnny was eagerly listening the Resounding Hope radio we gave him. This radio, fix-tuned to OMS’ Radio 4VEH radio station and downloaded with an audio Bible in Creole, serves as a wonderful discipling tool because most Haitians who live in rural areas are illiterate, so cannot read the Bible. I am excited for what God has in store for Johnny! I know he will do great things for God in his village.
This trip has taught me that sharing my testimony is completely essential in the light of eternity, and although it may be a little intimidating, when given to the Lord, it is absolutely empowering and beautiful. I have returned from Haiti with a fiery passion to share what God has done and is doing in my life with those I come in contact with daily. You can make a difference where you are right now with what God has given you. I exhort you to not let fear cause you to hide God’s greatness. The power and transformation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not come from any evangelism training or knowledge but purely from the Spirit of the living God. He deserves to be shared with your neighbor, parents, kids, that woman in the grocery store, that man on the street, and with all people. So today, pray that God would help you share his greatness with all those around you, even through your weakness, fear, and anxiety.
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” ~1 Corinthians 2:1-5
By Taylor Logsdon, OMS Communications and Marketing Team
Down a steep, one-lane, curvy mountainous dirt road, across a little river, and up the other side sits a little adobe and wooden farm house. There are chickens, ducks, dogs, and kittens running around the yard. A hammock, table, and bench are on the little porch. Our friend Maria is always ready to welcome us.
We met Maria last May when she heard about the medical team that was in Chaguarpamba. On her paper she marked that she would like to receive a visit from us. The first time we went, we weren’t sure how to find her house. After asking around, we were told, “to go down the road and, where you see the big tree, that is where her home is.”
Maria used to live in Guayaquil, but when her parents were sick, Maria moved back to their house to take care of them until they passed, leaving her the farm. One day, she told us about her sisters in Guayaquil and how they were Christians. She shared that she used to enjoy going with them and hearing God’s Word. She prayed with us to dedicate her life to Christ and shared how her heart breaks for others who place their faith in idols that can't help them. She feels alone because no one near her has faith in Christ. I handed her a little card with spaces to be filled with seven names for people God places on her heart to pray for. She was excited to be able to play a part, through prayer, in the lives of people she cares about. Every time we go and share a Bible story with her and ask if we can pray for her she answers, “Sure!”
We loved being a part of bringing the Good News to her, and we hope to eventually plant a church she can invest in.
Maria's generous heart means we rarely leave her place empty handed. Even though she doesn’t have a steady income, she always has something to share, like papayas, oranges, and bananas. She invites us to go with her to pick the fruit that she wants us to take home. It is her way of saying thank you.
We are praying that Maria will have the boldness to generously share Christ like she shares her fruit; that her family, friends, and neighbors will know her by her willingness to share Christ; and that one day, there will be a church out in this little farming community of Achiotes.
By Jennifer Riggs, OMS missionary, Loja, Ecuador
“Jennifer! Jennifer!” I heard my name being shouted. I turned around to see a nine-year-old girl with her New Testament open. “Look, I found the memory verse in my Bible that you taught us last week.” I looked at her New Testament where she had the verse circled in blue ink. She was so excited to show me how she had found it on her own.
During our Christmas program, we gave the kids each a New Testament as a gift, which they proudly bring with them every week to our Bread and Fish kids club.
Jaclyn, one of our Loja Challengers who served for a year, started Bread and Fish a year ago while living in Chaguarpamba. This ministry involved her playing soccer and sharing Bible stories with them. When she left, we took over what she started and kept it going.
We hold the kids club every Saturday in the open-air basketball court. Most of the kids come running or riding their bikes, but some of them are dropped off by their parents. We sing songs, learn Bible stories and verses, make crafts, play games, and have snacks. We also have some special events throughout the year, like a Christmas program and VBS.
The kids are learning and growing in their faith. They come hungry to learn and desire to be loved.
I was teaching the story about how Jesus healed Jairus’ daughter, and my heart was filled with joy as I looked at these kids sitting around me with their open Bibles. I asked for a volunteer to read a verse and was met with a chorus of “pick me, pick me.” They were so eager to read from their Bible’s that they didn’t want anyone else to have a turn.
Most of the kids are between six and ten years old, but there are two older girls who come and enjoy it as much as the younger kids. One of the older girls, a 16-year-old, has a desire to be a leader. So, we invest in coaching her. As she grows in her walk with God and in her ability as a leader, maybe someday she will be leading the next generation of kids.
God is touching the hearts of the young.
By Jennifer Riggs, OMS missionary, serving in Loja, Ecuador
In 2015, God opened the doors for a few OMS missionaries serving around Ecuador to come together with the goal of reaching the unreached population of Loja Province, a mountainous area in southern Ecuador with less than 1% evangelical Christians. This team is actively working to make a difference in the lives of people who may never hear about Jesus Christ from anyone else.
OMS:Who makes up the Loja team?
BJ: The Loja team is made up of BJ and Andrea Williamson,Tom and Susan Stiles, and Jennifer Riggs.
OMS: What is the ministry focus in Loja? What do you hope to accomplish?
BJ: Our focus is to raise up house churches in areas where there is no church.We do this by discipling new believers as the leaders of these house churches.We look for key people who are interested in the Gospel and disciple them in the Word, and encourage them to make a list of people who need to know the Gospel so they can pray for those people on the list. Each week, we share a different evangelistic passage that they will, in turn, share with one of those people they are praying for.
OMS: When and why did you relocate?
BJ: Two years ago,we prayed about where the Lord wanted us to start a ministry and found out that the western part of Loja Province is one of the least reached areas of Ecuador. We have since then relocated to Catamayo, our center for being able to travel to those unreached areas.
OMS: What different cities or villages are you focusing on? How many evangelicals are in this area? How many churches?
BJ: Our focus is on the Chaguarpamba and Balsas counties and the northern part of Paltas county. Combined, these areas have a population of roughly 20,000, but they have only one small church. Even with the church,there wouldn't be 50 believers. This is truly an area untouched by other ministries.
OMS: What are the biggest challenges you face? Your greatest joys?
BJ: It is challenging to travel as much as we do and to adjust the traditional beliefs held by 99% of the people we are in contact with. The religion we often see finds its roots in Roman Catholicism, but it has been mixed with other religions over the years, making it an interesting combination of beliefs,practices, and superstitions. Most people fear the change that Christianity calls them to make because the religion they are familiar with focuses on salvation through practices or tradition. But, our greatest joy is seeing people reading God’s Word and getting excited about learning about Christ and putting their faith in him.
Editor’s note: We will be sharing several stories of changed lives in Loja in the next 4 weeks, so keep watching for updated blogs.
Also, to learn more about Loja and what the team is doing there, here’s a video that will help make you see it through the team’s eyes:
Loja team interviewed by OMS summer Communications intern, Mykaela Alvey.
LB, age 26, lives and serves in South Asia. Since 2010, or since LB was just a teenager, he has worked as an evangelist and church planter among unreached people. LB has planted three churches and supervises six churches.
LB shares, “In the past, my life was a living hell before I had accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior. I used to steal things from the neighbor’s, from the grocery shops, and anywhere I could steal things I wanted. The villagers knew I had this bad habit, so they used to abuse me or mock me. My parents were also ashamed, and we were never invited to any special occasions in my village. A Christian pastor used to visit our home and others in the village. My mother shared my bad habit of stealing with the pastor. The pastor spoke to me humbly and shared the life of Jesus Christ with me. I am grateful to the Lord as I decided to give my life over to Christ. At first, I was afraid people wouldn’t accept me as a good person as they knew my bad habits.
“But I give all praise to the Lord as he made my path easy, and now being his servant, I am the happiest man on the earth. My parents are happy with me now, and my life is full of peace. I want to continue to serve his kingdom, sharing his Good News among the unreached so that their lives are also saved.”
LB visits the churches he supervises, as well as explores new places and opportunities for ministry using his bicycle. He spends many hours each day on his bicycle in order to reach his desired destinations. LB’s supervisors say he is an active and dynamic church planter, but could do so much more if he had a motorcycle for the ministry and reaching his goals of planting churches, baptizing believers, and forming many new disciples.
Would you be willing to give all or a portion of the cost of a motorcycle for LB? This is a gift that your ROI or return on investment for the kingdom would be multiplied over and over again.