"Salvation is Not Free"
Sitting in the living room of one of the ladies from her church in Uganda, an MTW missionary listened to a Bible study discussion focused on "love endures."
Some of the women shared personal stories about enduring bad marriages. One lady commented, "Love must endure. You must work hard. You must endure to the end. Salvation you know is not free." Several nodded in agreement. The missionary was heartsick that these church women did not seem to understand one of the most basic teachings of Scripture—that salvation is by grace alone, a free gift of God.
The Church in Uganda and across Africa has grown rapidly in recent years, but sadly much of this growth has not been built on a solid foundation. Much theological education and discipleship is still needed to train the Church in the gospel of grace.
MTW missionaries and national partners in Uganda are working to change that. They are committed to sharing God's Word in their community and formally training pastors in Uganda and across the African continent. Pray for those serving in Uganda, and for God to build that solid foundation of grace among His people.
We have critical needs to fill several positions Uganda. Learn how you can serve. Contact us at email@example.com.
A Conversation that Transcends Cultures
An MTW missionary woman struck up a conversation with a young Japanese lady at English Café Night.
The young woman was dating a foreigner and considering moving across the ocean to be with him, so she wanted to know what it was like for the missionary to move to Japan with her husband. The missionary explained that though it was hard to leave family behind in the U.S., they knew that God had called them to Japan and trusted Him to take care of them. A spiritual conversation then ensued-the kind of conversation that would never occur between two Japanese
at this stage in the relationship. And yet God made a way for the conversation across cultures.
The missionary then introduced the young lady to a Japanese friend whose husband is a foreigner. The young lady asked about the friend's conversion from Buddhism to Christianity. Suddenly the kind of conversation that would never occur
between two Japanese who'd just met, was underway. The missionary was overjoyed to hear her friend share the gospel with this girl in Japanese.
People from every tongue and culture are building His Church together. We have lots of opportunities to serve in Japan, from summer internships to longer service. Interested? Let's talk. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Crisis in Ukraine
It's been a prolonged season of both turmoil and prayer in Ukraine. Anyone who has watched world news this year is well aware of the precarious political and social situation that has unfolded and continues to unfold across Ukraine. It's impacted the lives of MTW personnel on the field and could have implications for future ministry.
A majority of the team in Odessa, one of three MTW ministry sites in Ukraine, continues working with little interruption in their ministry. Although they are the closest in proximity to the "occupied" portions of the country, they are finding open doors and opportunities to minister the love of Christ in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. Refugees fleeing their homes in war-torn areas are finding rest in Odessa, and the MTW team there is helping to care for the displaced, both physically and spiritually.
In February of 2014, previously peaceful demonstrations in Kiev turned violent, provoking a situation described by some as "revolution" and by others as "civil war." In the midst of this, MTW has striven to care for field personnel according to the specific needs and locations of the various teams. Some left their ministry site for a few weeks or a few months to remove themselves from the "pressure cooker" in which they were living. Others opted to return to the U.S. for Home Ministry Assignment (HMA). And still others have remained, ever watchful of the situation, and yet fully focused on working hand-in-hand with their Ukrainian partners to advance the gospel and minister to the needs of those around them.
Two MTW families remain on-site in Kiev (with one additional family on HMA), and continue to monitor the situation closely. Although the violence has shifted east, being in the capital city carries inherent risks.
The team in L'viv is geographically removed from much of the unrest. However, the church is experiencing significant stress from sending their men off to fight in the war. Many church members and MTW personnel have relatives who live in the war-torn areas of the country, adding a level of stress and concern for extended family. As a result, opportunities to minister to those who are hurting abound. To hear what God has been doing to build His Church amid the turmoil, read our MTW Ukraine Network article, "This is our 9/11" Summer 2014). And check back here at mtw.org/news in upcoming weeks. We hope to have more stories from the field in Ukraine coming soon.
So, How'd It Go? The West Coast Missions Conference in Review
In January we attempted something new: a small, yet powerful regional missions conference in Southern California. In conjunction with Redeemer Presbyterian Church San Diego, we co-sponsored the first-ever MTW West Coast Missions Conference.
We wanted to bring together missions-minded believers in the Southwestern U.S. for the purpose of mobilizing both individuals and churches for global missions.
While it's too soon to assess how God used the conference to call more laborers to the field, we keep hearing stories of many who were inspired and challenged, and returned to their churches with a renewed vigor for missions. "Several people I've spoken to have a renewed call for mission work," said Hunter Benson, missions director at Redeemer San Diego where the conference was held. "In fact, at our church, we've had several people say that they wouldn't have thought about going to other countries to serve, but now they are thinking about it after speaking with the missionaries."
We were particularly encouraged by the sheer number of attendees. Organizers estimated we might have 250-300 participants. At the end of the day, we topped off at 425, including 50 missionaries and over 40 college students—a huge encouragement. It was also our most diverse conference ever. A call to "Join the Story"
The theme of the conference was "Join the Story," an active call for people to participate in God's story of redeeming the lost. Plenary speakers Dr. Steven Um, pastor of Citylife Presbyterian Church in Boston and member of The Gospel Coalition Council, and Dr. Lloyd Kim, MTW coordinator and former missionary, addressed the conference on the critical importance of missions.
Popular breakout sessions included Shannon Johnston's seminar on the Church, art, and culture, Carrie Jussely's presentation on human trafficking in Cambodia, and Japanese national church-planter Seima Aoyagi's session on God's work in Tokyo. When Seima reminded the audience that the time for Americans to go to the mission field has not passed but still applies today, he proclaimed, "Please keep sending missionaries! We need you!"
One conference participant summed up the conference this way: "I think it gave us loads of resources—from MTW, missionaries, and other missions-minded groups—and
expanded our vision to think beyond just what takes up our lives …. I would love to see Redeemer expand its role to be a catalyst in San Diego for the kingdom work in giving, praying, and sending missionaries!" A charge from the coordinator
The conference ended with a passionate message from Lloyd Kim, urging us toward compassion and challenging us to join God's story. You can watch it on MTW's Vimeo page
. Interested in talking with someone about going to the field? We have opportunities for those interested in serving for a week, a month, a year, and longer-term. Let's start a conversation. Email us at email@example.com .
"I'm Forsaking Christianity"
At a New Year's Eve party in Bulgaria, an MTW missionary learned that a guest he'd never met had recently stopped going to church. The missionary introduced himself and asked for more of this man's story. Was he forsaking Christianity or just stepping away from church? The 21-year-old man was eager to talk and admitted that yes, he was forsaking Christianity.
His reason? He felt that his own fallenness and tendency to sin put him in a different category than all the other church goers. He was living under a self-condemning delusion, believing that surely no one else sins like he does. The hour-long conversation became a refreshing opportunity for the missionary to speak to this new friend about the Father who eagerly receives prodigal sons.
Please pray for this young man to be fully reconciled to Christ. And thank God for missionaries-the missionaries you support-who are willing to seize opportunities to talk about grace. Thank you for your faithful investment in the work of Christ's kingdom.
You can make a difference for Christ in Bulgaria. Consider serving in Bulgaria this summer. » Learn more.
A Sobering Reality
By Betsy Christiansen
In my nine years of leading medical-evangelism teams, I'd never seen the effect of so much heinous sin, especially against children, as I did on my recent medical trip to La Montaña, an agricultural community near the NW coast of Costa Rica.
Far too many cases of sexually-abused little girls, along with adult survivors of childhood trauma, came to the attention of our triage RNs and treating physicians. The Holy Spirit created safe places for these women and children to share their pain and find healing. First their physical complaints were addressed; then they received intense prayer and counseling, which brought the initial healing touches of Jesus.
Counselor and translator Christy Scott repeatedly ministered to these little ones, as well as to depressed and suicidal adults. In six months in these five communities, there have been six suicides! Spirits of despair, fear, and hopelessness are common. One lady confided how she watches powerlessly each morning as her 7-year-old granddaughter gets on a motorcycle with her father, knowing again she'll "be late to school." Compounding this too common tragedy, government services, as in the U.S., are sometimes inadequately staffed to deal with its scope.
Oh come, Lord Jesus, come in power, love and healing so these precious children may be cared for and cherished as You originally intended!
Betsy Christiansen is a medical missionary with MTW. To learn more about how you can be a part of a medical missions trip visit www.mtw.org/medical. Both medical and non-medical participants are needed!
Then They Were Orphans
By Mandy Marcone
Mandy: Tito, I'm really sorry that you don't have a Dad.
Tito: Thanks. I've just had to get used to life without one.
This was a conversation Tito and I had just a few days before Tito's Mom died in the hospital during a blood transfusion.
Lidia had been sick for several months, but once she was diagnosed with anemia, doctors were able to begin treating her. The family was very thankful that she was getting better, but she needed blood. The Peter Project helped the family pay for the three liters of blood she needed, but as the blood went in, a clot formed that went to her heart, and she passed away.
Roberto, Jacob, and I were able to go with Tito, his little brother, older sister, and other family members to the funeral. This was one of the hardest experiences we have dealt with. Watching Tito and Chelito try to process the fact that they are now orphans and watching as their 21-year-old sister beat the casket holding their mother's body screaming, "Don't leave me alone to take care of them! Come back! You can't do this to us!" was heartbreaking.
The boys are unsure of what their future holds, but we plan to remain committed to them whatever that looks like. Please remember this family in your prayers. They desperately need to know the hope of Jesus.
Mandy Marcone is an MTW missionary with The Peter Project in Honduras. Help support The Peter Project and provide a home for children like Tito. peterprojecthonduras.com.
"Will you be in heaven with me?"
Children often ask some pretty amazing questions, and often God uses these innocent yet profound questions to spark spiritual interest in their parents.
A Czech family from an MTW church plant in Zlin encouraged their non-Christian neighbors to send their son to a Christian camp. Although the parents had been resistant to any kind of outreach, they allowed their son to go. When the son came home, he asked his dad, "Will you be in heaven with me?" Even though this initially upset the boy's atheist father, he allowed his son to return to camp last year.
In October, the mother from this family attended a church retreat and connected with an MTW missionary couple. The mother asked whether it was possible to have a strong marriage while being married to an atheist, which opened up a great dialogue. She later said, "I think I do believe."
Years of resistance, years of friendship and prayers for friends, years of nothing in response-and now we are seeing the harvest for this family.
Ready to serve? Become an MTW intern this summer in the Czech Republic. Learn more.
Good News of Great Joy: A Christmas Baptism
by Craig Colbourne
Christmas is "good news of great joy" every year. We remember our heavenly Father's great love and grace in sending His Son to open the door for our sins to be forgiven and us to be reconciled to Him.
However, this year, there was even
greater joy at Shin Urayasu Grace Church's Christmas worship service. We
rejoiced together with the angels in heaven as Mrs. S professed her
faith in Jesus and was baptized.
Mrs. S was invited to a Bible study a little more than 2 years ago by her long-time friend, Mrs. T (pictured beside her in the photo). After attending a Bible study led by our co-worker, Karen, and a church member, Mrs. H, for about a year-and-a-half, Mrs. S said that she believed in Jesus.
A few months later, she decided to be baptized, and began preparations to do so. These preparations included meeting multiple times with Ree and I for baptism preparation class. But, what was very encouraging was the preparation Mrs. S undertook on her own.
Mrs. S spoke to each of her family members about her decision to be baptized. She had talked with her husband all along as she was studying the Bible, and he had commented to her about changes he had noticed in her. When she told him of her desire to be baptized, he said, "I thought you already had." In addition, she spoke with her two sons (14 and 10), the younger of whom has now attended Sunday school a number of times. In addition, she spoke with her parents and her husband's parents as well.
On the day Mrs. S was baptized, her husband, her two sons and her parents attended the worship service. For most of them, it was the first time to attend a church service. Mrs. S gave a clear testimony of her faith in Jesus.
Please pray for Mrs. S as she continues to grow in her young faith. Pray especially that God would help her to know how to apply her faith to many situations she faces in her life, now from a new perspective. Pray also for her family members, that God would enable them to see His presence in Mrs. S's life, and that He would give them open hearts which seek to know Him.
A Muslim's Journey to Christ
A missionary serving with us in Europe was in for a surprise recently when a Muslim student friend returned from a month in the Middle East ready to follow Christ.
While in his home country, where it is illegal to become a Christian, the student and his sister accepted an invitation to meet privately with his sister's friend who was a believer. The friend boldly asked them if she could pray for them to open themselves to become followers of Jesus. They knew nothing about Jesus or the Bible, but had seen her persistence and love for them, and so they said yes. Together they prayed with this Middle Eastern Christian woman, asking for God's help to become followers of Jesus.
After hearing his friend's story, the missionary asked what he thought about this decision. He said he was very happy. "How do you say it, put your faith in Jesus?" he asked. "I want to put my faith in Jesus." The missionary and the student now meet regularly to study the Gospel of Mark together.
To learn how you can serve among Muslims, email firstname.lastname@example.org
A Buddhist's Grief
A national pastor in Cambodia returned to his home village for his mother's funeral. A few months prior he'd led his mother to faith in Jesus Christ. The pastor's father was a well-respected Buddhist leader in the village. As he grieved over the loss of his wife he commented, "Soon there will be no one left to take care of me. Everyone is leaving me."
What did he mean? Several of his family members have now become Christians and he is worried that all of them will. He dreads that day because then no one will come and offer food and incense to him when he passes on to the next life. It is in this sense he fears being left alone. As difficult as it is to break from past customs, many of his children have decided to follow Jesus. They want something better-a better hope not only for themselves, but for the whole family.
Pray for this man to realize that Jesus is the true God, and for him to find comfort and hope in the message of the gospel.
"The Project Found Me"
MTW summer interns serving in Ethiopia visited a mother in a poor village who was eager to tell her story. The woman's husband died and soon after she became sick with HIV/AIDS. Bedridden, she had to resign from her teaching job. Alone at home with two sons and no means of support, the woman thought she was going to die.
She called out to God, and in her words, "the project found me." The Ethiopia ACT Project, which serves poor families impacted by HIV/AIDS, helped her get medicine and care for her basic needs. The young mother told the interns that God came into the neighborhood the day the project leader, an MTW missionary, first visited her.
When the interns asked how they could pray for her, her reply stunned them. "I have no prayer requests; I only hope that you will praise God for what he has done for me. I was sick, and now I am very healthy. I had no hope, but now God has shown me joy in Christ."
Not only is God changing the lives of Ethiopians, He is also changing the lives of MTW interns who are witnesses to His grace and power.
Learn more about MTW internships in Ethiopia.
By Grace Alone
In South Africa there are many churches, but few that teach that people are saved by grace alone. There they struggle with the same temptation we often have-to think we need to add to grace by praying more, giving more, or otherwise compensating for our sin.
During a monthly tea in Cape Town, an MTW missionary has been leading a Bible study that focuses on the basic gospel message. The ladies who attend have been grappling with verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith … not by works .…"
During the first study one of the women was convinced we are only saved if we're baptized. Another woman thought we have to pray to keep our salvation. Often the missionary reminds them: "What do we do to earn our salvation?" Nothing! "Can we take any of the credit for being saved?" No! Thanks to this study, they are becoming grounded in the amazing truth of grace.
Learn more about our ministry in South Africa.
Featured Work: Haiti
Haiti is a country in desperation. Crushing poverty. Natural disasters. Political corruption. The needs here are great. But God is busy. The gospel is changing lives though church planting, pastoral training, a children’s school, medical clinics, and plans for a children’s home. Watch and be encouraged.
Gonaives, Haiti —ONEChild
June 6–13, 2015
April 13-20, 2015
2015 Disaster Response Training Events:
April 28- May 3, 2015 in Pennsylvania
October 20-25, 2015 in Tennessee