THE FRONTIER journal
NEWS + STORIES FROM THE MINISTRY OF FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP
SPECIAL EDITION: 2017 ANNUAL REPORT REGIONAL OVERVIEWS PAGE 4
2017 HIGHLIGHTS + CELEBRATION PAGES 10â€“11
LOOKING AHEAD PAGE 23
MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR RICHARD HANEY
I heard a radio announcer comment the other day that the month of January derives its name from the ancient Roman god Janus. Janus was the animistic spirit of doors and archways. He was depicted with a double-faced head, enabling him to look simultaneously back at the past and forward to the future. Similarly, as our new year begins we often look both ways, too. We reflect on the past year and we pray and discern the way forward. In 2017 we began operating under our new name, Frontier Fellowship, and launched new print and digital communication initiatives. We’re grateful for new opportunities to share stories of God at work with a wider audience and expand our vision to include new frontier mission fields. We also grew our team this year with the addition of several staff members who are helping us mobilize the Church throughout the US and beyond. Thanks for walking alongside us and supporting efforts to carry the Gospel to the frontiers of our world. We explored new areas this past year as part of our vision to reach further. I traveled to visit friends in Thailand and Mongolia and caught glimpses of God at work in places that have long awaited Good News. As 2018 begins, we keep looking toward least-reached areas where people are still waiting. The Buddhist world and places in Southeast Asia continue to be on our hearts. And we’re exploring the development of an intern program for young adults as they consider ways to serve unreached peoples. (See “Looking Ahead” on page 23 for more about these opportunities.) We’re thankful for God’s provision and leading as we engage the Western Church to learn what God is doing in frontier regions and cities. We invite you to take your time reading and praying through the following pages as we reflect on how we’ve seen God’s hand at work. We’re eager to discover signs of God’s Kingdom coming in this new year and invite you to journey with us as we pray, learn and support the work of our ministry partners around the world. +
© 2018 FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP page 2
STAFF 2017 EDITION
CENTRAL ASIA CHINA CUBA EGYPT ETHIOPIA INDIA ISRAEL JORDAN MONGOLIA NEPAL NIGER PAKISTAN RUSSIA SOUTH KOREA THAILAND TURKEY UNITED ARAB EMIRATES UNITED KINGDOM page 3
THE FOLLOWING REGIONAL OVERVIEWS DESCRIBE THE WORK WE SUPPORT AMONG THE WORLD’S LEASTREACHED PEOPLE + PLACES. READ ON TO DISCOVER THE CHALLENGES, OPPORTUNITIES + SIGNS OF GOD’S KINGDOM COMING WE WITNESSED AS WE ENGAGED WITH OUR MINISTRY PARTNERS IN 2017.
Ethiopia is Africa’s second most-populous country and home to one of the world’s oldest Christian churches, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It’s Africa’s oldest independent nation and was never colonized, despite enduring a five-year Italian occupation during the late 1930s. Since our founding days, Ethiopia has held a special place in Frontier Fellowship’s heart and ministry commitment. Harold Kurtz, our first executive director, spent many years living among the Dizi people in the remote highlands of Southwest Ethiopia. He and a small Presbyterian team first introduced Jesus to this traditional religionist people group in 1947. After many years of Christian witness by Lutheran and Presbyterian missionary societies, the evangelical church began to grow. A denomination was established in 1959, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), with a vision to share the Gospel for the holistic transformation of communities.
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Today, Frontier Fellowship is engaged in three EECMY projects in Southwest Ethiopia to support the growth of the church among the region’s many unreached people groups. In the Southwest Bethel Synod (SWBS), a team has been working for nearly 25 years on a translation of the Bible into the Dizi language. Some portions are complete; others wait to be checked with Wycliffe/ SIL consultants. The team is currently translating portions of the New Testament and Genesis. As this labor of love moves toward completion, church leaders are beginning conversations about how to promote local literacy programs.
The growing Dizi Church desires to be self-sustaining, so SWBS asked for our help several years ago to establish an apple orchard in the town of Maji. The hope is for this orchard to soon yield enough produce to turn a profit in the local market, with proceeds going back into the work of the church. The team managing the orchard has overcome a number of hurdles in past years: identifying an apple variety that would thrive at Maji’s high altitude, addressing a disease that plagued the apples and fending off an infestation of moles. The orchard is now thriving, and our partners hope to see it become fully selfsustaining in another year. Our partners in the Jimma Bethel Synod (JBS) are bringing the Good News to unreached people groups like the Menja, Tsara, Dawro, Kafa and Minit. Last year through JBS, over 20,000 people heard the Gospel for the first time. JBS leaders have demonstrated particular compassion toward marginalized groups who are culturally prohibited from participation in community life. Longstanding prejudices have been difficult to break, even within the church. Nonetheless, JBS leaders continue to preach the Gospel message of access and inclusion for all people and have lived out this reality by inviting isolated groups into the community, providing opportunities for leadership development, micro-enterprise projects and women’s empowerment training. God has worked through our partners’ faithful efforts to slowly shift the culture. We celebrate that in 2017, for the first time ever, a group of believers from marginalized people groups was welcomed to the synod’s annual multi-ethnic gathering and given an opportunity to share their joy for the way Christ has welcomed them into the community of faith. We’re grateful for EECMY’s good work and its devotion to bringing the Good News to the unreached. We thank God for the diverse, innovative approaches EECMY brings to our understanding of how to share the Gospel in a variety of cultural contexts and in the midst of physical and cultural challenges. + TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR WORK IN SOUTHWEST ETHIOPIA, CONTACT TARA CHASE (TCHASE@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM) OR BOB VON SCHIMMELMANN (VONSCHIMMELMANN@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
LIGHT OF HOPE MINISTRY ETHIOPIA During his years as a missionary in Southwest Ethiopia, Frontier Fellowship’s first executive director Harold Kurtz prayed for someone to bring the Gospel to Ethiopia’s Muslims. His prayers were answered in 2003 when the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) president introduced him to an Arsi Oromo man who had turned from Islam to follow Jesus. Though this man had suffered persecution because of his faith in Christ, God gave him great passion to share the Good News of Jesus with others, and through him, Light of Hope Ministry Ethiopia (LOHME) was born. Numbering 7–9 million, the Arsi Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and comprise over one-third of the population. Until LOHME was established, the primarily Muslim Arsi Oromo had very little, if any, access to the Gospel. LOHME’s vision is to share the Gospel through holistic and transformational development initiatives in the Arsi Oromo cultural context. Frontier Fellowship’s partnership with LOHME has grown over the years to include support of literacy, village schools, an Arsi Oromo Bible translation and the development of Arsi Oromo worship music, providing opportunities for people to encounter the Gospel. page 6
LIGHT OF HOPE MINISTRY ETHIOPIA
Through the generosity of numerous American individuals and churches, LOHME has built 52 schools over the past 10 years in villages where education has been otherwise inaccessible. Twelve schools offer education up to fourth grade. The other 40 provide education up to eighth grade. LOHME estimates that 45,000 Arsi Oromo children received access to education in 2017. In a culture where it’s uncommon for girls to go to school, we celebrate that some 60% of LOHME students are girls.
LOHME has built 52 schools over the past 10 years in villages where education has been otherwise inaccessible.
LOHME builds village schools and also trains and provides teachers for them. While the curriculum taught in LOHME schools isn’t overtly Christian, students and their families gain access to the Gospel through the Christian teachers who live in the communities where they work. As interest in Christian faith grows, LOHME’s teachers help plant and lead house churches in the villages they serve.
In partnership with Frontier Fellowship and the Ethiopian Bible Society, LOHME completed a translation of the Arsi Oromo New Testament in 2014. Believers celebrated their newfound access to God’s Word. In 2017, Talking Bible International helped LOHME complete an audio recording of the New Testament to further expand access to Scripture. LOHME is currently working on a process for distributing 5,000 portable audio New Testaments to Arsi Oromo families. An Old Testament translation is in progress. Alongside Bible translation work, LOHME staff are collaborating with local believers to develop songs and dances in the language and context of the Arsi Oromo. Using traditional instruments and melodies with theologically rich lyrics, LOHME is finding another avenue for introducing the Gospel message in a meaningful and culturally honoring way. Political instability in Ethiopia over the past few years has created challenges for LOHME’s work. During a long season of conflict between the government and its citizens, many people were arrested, imprisoned or killed. Much of Ethiopia’s infrastructure was compromised, shut down or erratically available for months. Communication was difficult. No new construction was permitted. It wasn’t safe for Frontier Fellowship to send American teams for vision trips. We thank God for recent news that signs of peace, justice and calm are emerging, and we continue to pray for the healing and flourishing of Ethiopia. As recent ministry disruptions subside, LOHME looks forward to hosting American Christians again in 2018 for a summer ESL program and a fall vision trip. They also plan to build two new elementary schools and expand seven existing ones to eighth grade. A vision for higher education may be realized through the Light of Hope Academy, which hopes to accept students as early as this fall. Work on the Arsi Oromo Old Testament is expected to be completed by year’s end. In the midst of all this, LOHME staff continue their efforts to help train and equip Ethiopian churches to reach Arsi Oromo people who migrate to cities and towns for employment and education opportunities. We’re grateful to partner with LOHME as they champion God’s love for the Arsi Oromo people, creating and developing avenues of access to the Gospel. + TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR WORK WITH LOHME, VISIT FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM OR CONTACT INFO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM.
NIGER Niger is located in West Africa in an area called the Muslim Sahel. This nation acts as a gateway to North and West Africa and the Sahara, and it’s traversed by the Tuareg and Fulani nomadic groups. Currently ranked #187 on the United Nation’s Human Development Index, Niger faces many barriers to progress as well as ongoing conflict with militant groups in certain remote areas. Yet despite many challenges, the light of the Gospel has begun to shine brightly throughout this nation in recent years. Nigerien followers of Jesus, living in a Muslim-majority context, are joyfully and confidently sharing the Good News among those who’ve never heard it. We’re grateful for the deepening relationship with our ministry partner, the Eglise Evangélique de la République du Niger (EERN), and their holistic vision for evangelism and dedication to strong interfaith relationships. While Islam has tremendous strength in this region, significant religious freedom exists. The government promotes religious tolerance that allows Christians to live peaceably alongside their Muslim neighbors. God is drawing many to Himself, and He’s using EERN to proclaim the Good News of His Kingdom through friendship, education, evangelist training and mobilization, church planting, healthcare and community development projects. 2017 was a continuation of these effective frontier mission strategies. We also saw the unexpected fruit of a church emerging in a region formerly overrun by Boko Haram militants. God is bringing new life to the seemingly least-likely places, and our partners’ faith remains steadfast and vibrant. One is a prominent judge in Niger’s federal judiciary and a person of significant influence both within the government as well as EERN. We’re also connected with other EERN leaders, various ministries and a growing community of Presbyterian workers who are serving throughout the country. EERN recently broke ground for a new student hosting center, their second hostel designed to accommodate middle and high school students from rural areas so they can attend secondary school in a village. These centers are strategic for a number of reasons. Most children in rural areas live too far from a village to regularly attend school—often a 10-km walk each way. Some aren’t safe in their communities, particularly girls facing the risk of early marriage and lack of opportunity to finish their secondary education. Other students in search of permanent housing near a God is bringing school can’t find a place to stay. Some new life to the Christian students have been forced to practice Muslim prayers and customs in seemingly order to find lodging.
least-likely places, and our partners’ faith remains steadfast and vibrant.
For many students, these hosting centers might be the only chance they have to hear the Good News of Jesus. The centers are designed to provide equal spaces for Christian and Muslim students and foster interfaith friendship. Our partners’ vision is for these centers to offer support, care and hospitality to students who wouldn’t otherwise have the resources to pursue their education—giving them a chance to thrive and be equipped to lead their country forward in the years to come. page 8
NIGER (CONTINUED) We’re learning that partnership development is a slow process, but we can rejoice in small but significant engagements. After five years of prayer, discernment, learning and conversation with churches, we witnessed how God touched a Virginia congregation to support two EERN evangelists and sponsor tuition at an EERN hosting center. A man from this church was especially drawn to become involved, and he’s made two trips to Niger so far. Zechariah 4:10 has been an encouragement as we engage with a small group of people who’ve committed to be a part of the work God is doing in Niger. EERN remains focused on evangelism and development opportunities as they continue serving communities across the country. This work includes training and support of rural evangelists, tuition for primary school students, construction of schools and hosting centers for middle and high school students, theological education, community health initiatives and aid for churches recovering from terrorist attacks. They hope to plant new churches in 52 towns and cities by the year 2020. EERN also plans to send a new pastor soon to Agadez, a strategic city that serves as a military/security center and gathering place for West African refugees and migrants making their way to North Africa and on to the Mediterranean. We hope to help more US churches become involved this year through opportunities to visit and build relationships with our Nigerien partners. + TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR WORK IN NIGER, CONTACT DONALD MARSDEN (DMARSDEN@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
SUDAN Sudan, formerly the largest country in Africa, split into two nations in 2011 following the southern region’s vote for independence. The division was largely along religious lines; Sudan is principally Muslim, while Christianity and ethnic religions are primarily representative of South Sudan. Decades of conflict have plagued this part of the world, claiming the lives of 1.5 million people in the north-south civil war. Ongoing fighting in Sudan’s western province of Darfur has led to the deaths of over 200,000 people and forced two million more to seek refuge in neighboring countries. Our ministry partnership in Sudan exists against the backdrop of this troubled history. As the crisis unfolded in recent years, some of our partners were forced to flee ethnic or religious persecution. While our relationships with these partners have continued, the geo-political situation has altered where they’re able to live and serve. Yet in the midst of turmoil and tragedy, God is bringing new life in Sudan, and we’ve seen evidence of His Kingdom coming through the faithfulness and courage of our partners as they live under the constant threat of persecution. Sudanese Christians experienced growing persecution this past year, indicating a return to Sharia law. The government imprisoned some pastors and filed charges against others. Churches and schools owned by Christians were destroyed. Most recently, the government has begun suing churches and pastors to claim their property, including the homes of two pastors. CONTINUED ON PAGE 12
Highlights +Celebration AS WE REFLECT ON THE PAST YEAR, WE’RE GRATEFUL FOR THE WAYS GOD LED, SUSTAINED + BLESSED OUR WORK. HERE ARE A FEW OF THE GOOD GIFTS WE’RE CELEBRATING AS WE LOOK BACK AT 2017!
RAISED FOR FRONTIER MISSION PROJECTS
NEW NAME, LOGO, WEBSITE, BLOG, SOCIAL MEDIA, QUARTERLY MAGAZINE + PRINT / DIGITAL PUBLICATIONS
NEW STAFF MEMBERS ADDED TO OUR TEAM
INTERNATIONAL TRIPS LED BY STAFF + BOARD MEMBERS
transitions to Board of Directors 2 MEMBERS ROTATED OFF + 2 MEMBERS JOINED page 10
COMBINED YEARS OF SERVICE BY STAFF MEMBERS
4-star CHARITY NAVIGATOR RATING
first Advent devotional WRITTEN BY STAFF + BOARD MEMBERS + MINISTRY FRIENDS
GIVEN THROUGH OUR CHRISTMAS GIFT CATALOG
2 video projects WITH NONPROFIT VIDEOGRAPHERS SILENT IMAGES
RAISED FOR FARSI BIBLES IN IRAN
THANKS FOR PARTNERING WITH US AS WE SUPPORT THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL AT THE WORLDâ€™S FRONTIERS!
In spite of mounting pressures and setbacks, followers of Jesus in Sudan continue strong in their faith. Frontier Fellowship partners with a Bible college that provides education and leadership development, training ministry leaders to serve among Sudan’s unreached people groups. Even when tuition is difficult to afford and travel isn’t easy, students are eager to attend the school. Some students who don’t yet know Jesus attend as well, welcoming the opportunity to pursue higher education. The staff is devoted to their ministry, and teachers and administrators continue to work even when the school’s funds are insufficient to pay them. Our friend Rev. Joe continues to be a significant leader during these difficult times. He’s a Lutheran pastor, a member of the Sudan Council of Churches and the accountant for the Bible college. He brings valuable perspective to our partnership and is a strong support system for the school’s teachers, students after they graduate and his own congregation. As we’ve engaged with our partners over the past year, we’ve learned what real determination and faith look like in the face of constant pushback. We’ve seen how forgiveness and willingness to work together regardless of differences is a key to healthy partnership in God’s Kingdom. We’ve also witnessed the power of prayer, even when we don’t immediately see the result or when our prayers are answered in ways we don’t expect. Our Sudanese friends continue to pray for God’s help—with joy and understanding that everything will be done according to His will. Due to fighting, instability and food scarcity, people are leaving South Sudan, Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and other difficult places. Many are fleeing to refugee camps in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Chad. Some pastors have realized this is bringing unreached people to places of easy access, and refugees’ need for healing from the trauma they’ve experienced opens doors for sharing the Gospel and providing holistic care. There has been division within the local Presbyterian church concerning how to handle recent pressure from the government. A respected South Sudanese man has asked key leaders from the two sides of the conflict to attend a reconciliation gathering (led by Africans who have dealt with genocide and other serious issues), and the leaders have accepted. There will also be a follow-up process back in the capital city of Khartoum with other ministry leaders. We’re praying this marks a new beginning of forgiveness and restoration and helps the church move forward. + TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR WORK IN SUDAN, CONTACT DENISE SCIUTO (DSCIUTO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
CENTRAL ASIA Central Asia, once known as Turkestan, is home to 70 million of the world’s Turkic-speaking people, most of whom are Muslim. A major crossroads along the Silk Road, this region experienced huge population movements and was a conduit for goods, ideas, religions and even conquesting armies between Europe and Asia. Today, Central Asia consists of six republics: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.
CENTRAL ASIA (CONTINUED)
Much of Central Asia was under Soviet rule for most of the last century. During this time, Soviet leadership developed KGB-like secret police forces within these nations. Many Russians left Central Asia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but these nations have retained much of the Soviet influence. Secret police continue to create an oppressive environment. With few exceptions (where the Russian Orthodox Church still thrives), access to the Gospel is heavily restricted. This lack of religious freedom has led to severe persecution of Christians in Central Asia.
Despite these obstacles, God is at work in the countries of Central Asia. Frontier Fellowship partners with a women’s shelter that provides love, care and practical expressions of the Gospel to women who’ve suffered from the injustices of prostitution, trafficking and domestic abuse. We offer scholarships for Central Asian Christians to attend an annual worship and fellowship gathering in Europe, an important time of refreshment for them and an opportunity for our staff to connect with leaders in a safer, more open context. We also partner quietly on the ground with leaders serving the underground church in Central Asia and have learned that our prayers and presence are perhaps the most powerful expression of encouragement and commitment we can offer to support our friends in these heavily restricted contexts. To the north in Russia, we’ve begun to connect with ministries that serve Central Asian migrants. Most of these migrants, who live on the fringes of society, relocated to Russia seeking jobs. Though the work they can find is arduous and low-paying, they’re grateful for employment opportunities that don’t exist in their home countries. Outside the restrictive atmosphere of their own nations, Central Asian Muslims in Russia experience incredible freedom to explore the truth of the Gospel. Many have begun to follow Jesus. Members of our staff had the opportunity to attend a church service in Moscow last summer and worshipped with some of these new Central Asian Christians. As more Central Asians encounter Christ in Russia, we pray God will use them as a natural bridge for sharing the Gospel with relatives and friends in their home contexts. As 2018 unfolds, we’re exploring an opportunity to help empower Central Asian Christians through business development and leadership training. We thank God for the strong, courageous faith of our brothers and sisters and their commitment to sharing the Gospel despite many risks and dangers. + TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR WORK IN CENTRAL ASIA, CONTACT HAEMIN LEE (HLEE@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM) OR DONALD MARSDEN (DMARSDEN@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
DIASPORA / US MUSLIM OUTREACH
While radical Islam becomes increasingly violent, many of the world’s moderate Muslims are distancing themselves from extremist views and forms of religious expression. As they denounce the theology and aggression of terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, moderate Muslims are growing introspective, asking if their faith is too rigid for the demands of modernity or democracy. Some wonder whether Islam needs a reformation similar to what Christianity experienced 500 years ago.
As the division between radical and moderate Islam widens, Muslim and Christian communities in the United States are beginning to open up and seek redemptive relationships with each other. At a time when great fear, prejudice and misunderstanding exist in our nation, this is a tremendous opportunity to engage in interfaith dialogue and peacemaking.
We believe this is a God-given moment to pursue genuine friendships with those who’ve never heard the Good News. Our country is home to immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers and people coming from places in the world without access to the Gospel. We’re encouraging churches to take advantage of this new openness among moderate Muslims and build bridges of friendship with local communities and mosques. Our staff is responding to a growing number of invitations to speak to churches on the topic of Islam and how American followers of Jesus can be more responsive to His teachings—loving our neighbors, even those we might consider enemies, as we bear witness to the Good News. We’re encouraging congregations to listen to the voice of Jesus instead of allowing political rhetoric to influence the culture and behavior of the Church. And we’re calling American Christians to listen to and learn from their Muslim friends, even when it means embracing discomfort or risk for the sake of the Kingdom. We provide training and resources and recommend seminars and events to help churches better understand their Muslim neighbors and learn how to respond wisely and compassionately to their spiritual, emotional and physical needs. One of the churches we’re connected with in the Chicago area is entering its ninth year of bridge building with a local mosque. As the relationship has developed over the years, they’ve grown together through mutual trust, intentional acts of reconciliation, dialogue and study of the Bible and Qur’an, shared meals, holiday celebrations and partnership in community outreach—a model of what we long to see more of throughout the US.
MUSLIM OUTREACH (CONTINUED) We’re praying for continued opportunities to come alongside American churches to help them find common ground and develop friendships within their local Muslim communities—for the transformation of hearts and flourishing of cities. + TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR MUSLIM OUTREACH, CONTACT DAN MCNERNEY (DMCNERNEY@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
OROMO OUTREACH When we look back on our 2017 ministry year with the Ethiopian Arsi Oromo diaspora in the US, we see God’s hand working in and through this people group to make His name known to others in the Oromo community. By God’s grace, two Oromo small groups in Beaverton and Portland, Oregon, are remaining faithful in their commitment to reach other local Oromos. The Holy Spirit is at work, empowering these followers of Jesus to boldly share the Gospel with their friends, families and neighbors. In addition to these two groups, a couple from the Portland home group has started an additional group in the city. There’s a hunger among Oromo followers of Jesus to learn more of what the Gospel means, worship together and welcome others into their homes.
The Holy Spirit is at work, empowering these followers of Jesus to boldly share the Gospel with their friends, families and neighbors.
These weekly Bible studies, informal gatherings at local coffee shops and regular events are inviting to those who aren’t comfortable in a traditional American church environment. Small group members are encouraged to invite their relatives and friends who don’t yet know Jesus, which often brings people of different faiths to join the community. Several have become Christians since getting involved with a small group. Oromo fellowships are being strengthened in other US cities through the sharing of contextualized worship music in the Oromo tradition.
It’s encouraging to see many young Oromos becoming passionate about Jesus and sharing His Good News with others. We’re grateful for your prayers in 2017 and ask for your continued support as we serve and mobilize the Oromo diaspora for God’s Kingdom. + TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR OROMO OUTREACH, CONTACT TELILE BADECHA (TBADECHA@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
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“SO HE CAME + PROCLAIMED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR OFF + PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; FOR THROUGH HIM BOTH OF US HAVE ACCESS IN ONE SPIRIT TO THE FATHER. SO THEN YOU ARE NO LONGER STRANGERS + ALIENS, BUT YOU ARE CITIZENS WITH THE SAINTS + ALSO MEMBERS OF THE HOUSEHOLD OF GOD...” EPHESIANS 2:17–19
Arabian Peninsula + Middle East
Radical Islam is beginning to loosen its hold on Iran, and the regime of the Ayatollah Khamenei appears to be on its last legs. Approximately 50% of the population was born after the 1979 revolution, and life as portrayed on Western internet and television has become especially attractive to young Iranians. A decreasing number of Iranians attend their local mosque weekly. Many are taking to the streets to protest their government officials and religious rulers for economic, political and religious reasons. While this growing sense of disenfranchisement has led some to atheism, many Iranians are turning to Christ. It’s difficult to accurately count Iranian Christians in the vast, independent house church networks (isolated from each other for security reasons), but our partners estimate between 1–4 million have become followers of Jesus in recent years. Against near-impossible odds, Iran has become one of the world’s fastest-growing churches. There are significant movements of God on the Arabian Peninsula as well. Missiologists estimate there are some 60,000 Muslim background believers in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia (in addition to Iran) is attempting to become more moderate, especially in regards to its restrictions on women. Rulers in the Gulf region are sensing the growing discontent of younger and less privileged citizens. Without increased freedom, it’s likely these nations will face protests similar to what’s currently unfolding in Iran. We’re privileged to partner with Persian and Arab Christian leaders who are responding to the growth of the Church. We’re supporting workers in the United Arab Emirates who are discipling new believers from Gulf nations. As these believers grow in their faith, they return to their countries of origin to lead underground churches in Oman, Kuwait, Yemen and Qatar. These same workers spend their summers in Europe where they can share their faith with greater freedom among vacationing Arabs. 2017 grew our partnership with Pars Theological Centre in London, a ministry offering vital theological education and discipleship for the rapidly growing Iranian Church. Pars provides training for new Iranian followers of Jesus via the internet and satellite television as well as in-person teaching when Iranians are able to travel outside of their country. We’re eager to continue supporting Pars’ efforts to supply the new Iranian Church with urgently needed resources and education.
ARABIAN PENINSULA (CONTINUED) Farsi Bibles are one of the most critical needs for the Iranian Church. This past year we’ve helped fund the printing and distribution of Bibles in Iran. Churches and individuals in the US are coming alongside the Iranian Church to help new followers of Jesus gain access to the Word of God, and these new believers cherish having the gift of a Bible as much as life itself. We wait with expectancy to see how God continues to draw people to Himself from these places and form new expressions of His Church. + TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR WORK ON THE ARABIAN PENINSULA, VISIT FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM OR CONTACT INFO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM.
EGYPT ISIS’ opposition of those who don’t espouse its particular understanding and practice of Islam continues to lead to terror and destruction throughout the Middle East. 2017 witnessed a targeting of Egypt and an increase in attacks on Egyptian Christians. But instead of retaliating, Egyptian Christians are forgiving and praying for their enemies. This has become a powerful witness to those around them, and many Egyptian Muslims are becoming followers of Jesus as they seek a more peaceful path to God. As a result, the Church in Egypt is flourishing. Frontier Fellowship continues to provide support, training and encouragement for the growing underground church. Some estimates suggest underground church believers number in the millions. Underground church leaders offer compassion and care for these new believers, many of whom were refugees or who bear the psychological scars of their former way of life. Specialized counseling and discipleship are needed for these brothers and sisters as they assume their new identity in Christ. God’s movement in Egypt is forming a new generation of missionaries in this ancient land. We’re excited to support the education and training of Egyptian workers who are being sent out into many of the 22 Arabic-speaking countries of the Middle East and Arabian Peninsula to establish new underground churches. A number of years ago, Frontier Fellowship introduced the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement curriculum to our partners at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, who’ve since used it to teach the principles of frontier mission. In December 2017, we gratefully celebrated the completion of the Arabic translation of Perspectives after nine years of prayer and effort to achieve this dream. We pray this resource will help churches and seminaries cultivate the emerging missionary movement in the Middle East, Arabian Peninsula and beyond. We thank God for the privilege of being involved in the story He’s writing for the Church in Egypt and pray for continued opportunities to walk alongside Egyptian followers of Jesus as they serve His Kingdom. + TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR WORK IN EGYPT, VISIT FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM OR CONTACT INFO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM.
INDIA Home to many of the world’s unreached people groups, North India represents both an immense challenge and opportunity. Frontier Fellowship is connected with two indigenous ministry partners whose work first began in the state of Bihar and is now spreading throughout Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and beyond. We’re thankful for the privilege to engage in ministry with them, sharing and supporting their vision to take the Good News of Jesus to those who’ve never heard it.
Our partners are fostering the growth of house churches and equipping new believers to carry on the work of church multiplication and disciple-making. First-generation followers of Jesus are sharing their experiences of God’s transforming work in their lives and welcoming their families and communities into the Kingdom. Evangelists—in some cases even those who are illiterate—travel from village to village, telling the Gospel story and planting new churches. We’re witnessing an exciting movement of God’s grace as He builds His Church in North India. In recent years, there has been rising persecution of Christians throughout the country and growing Hindu nationalism in the government. When God is at work, opposition can arise in many forms, both spiritual and social. But followers of Jesus remain courageous and firm in their faith, and the growth of the Church continues despite efforts to repress it. Last spring, one of our partners mobilized a network of ministry staff to visit 9,000 unreached villages in the predominantly Hindu region along the Ganges River. A third of those villages indicated a desire for return visits from an evangelist. This same ministry has established 11,000 house churches throughout North India and is mobilizing teams to serve among unreached people groups. We’ve committed to supporting the work of reaching several of these groups, and in 2017 we helped send new teams of church planters to live and serve among them. India faced severe environmental crises in 2017. The June-September monsoon season devastated regions of India, Nepal and Bangladesh. While the annual heavy rains are expected, flooding was worse than it had been for years. Thousands of villages were cut off from relief agencies, leaving people without access to food and clean water for days. The death toll exceeded 1,200 people. Millions more suffered the loss of homes, crops and livestock. Our partners shifted some of their church planting efforts to emergency relief work during this catastrophic season. As they delivered supplies and food, they also shared the hope of Jesus with the communities they served.
We’re witnessing an exciting movement of God’s grace as He builds His Church in North India.
Our partners have found that Community Health Evangelism (CHE) and microenterprise initiatives are effective strategies for reaching rural villages with the Gospel. These approaches allow ministry workers to engage with practical needs and build relationships as they invest in the holistic transformation of a community. Many villages are encountering Jesus and experiencing physical and spiritual flourishing as a result.
We continue to hear stories of God using dreams and acts of healing to draw people to Himself. Whenever we visit or talk with our partners, we hear accounts of deliverance from abuse and oppression and miraculous healings from diseases and demonic powers. The healing of one person often leads to an entire family or village coming to faith in Jesus. There’s enthusiasm among new believers to share how they’ve encountered Jesus. There’s also a cost in some cases—for some, abandonment and estrangement by family members or rejection by their community. But they’re finding Jesus worth any cost and experiencing the grace of new spiritual families in which they can belong. Our bold and energetic partners have a vision to see this part of the world gain access to the Good News of Jesus. They’re continuing to expand their ministries and consider new opportunities to reach people groups who’ve never had the opportunity to hear about Him. We’re privileged to see firsthand the amazing work of God as He draws people to Himself and encourage our brothers and sisters as together we behold God’s Kingdom coming to North India. + TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR WORK IN INDIA, CONTACT CODY WATSON (CWATSON@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
PAKISTAN Although Pakistan is officially an Islamic Republic, it has a population of more than 2.5 million Christians. Most of these followers of Jesus experience some type of discrimination or persecution on a daily basis. But their resilient faith and love for Christ under difficult circumstances are a powerful testimony of how God is at work in this nation. Frontier Fellowship partners with Schools in the Sand, a Christian ministry that provides primary school education for children from the Meghwal and Bhil unreached people groups. These Hindu people groups are ethnic minorities living in the economically poor desert region of Punjab in eastern Pakistan. Because of their low-caste status, Meghwal and Bhil children aren’t welcome in local primary schools. Our partner CJ and his wife felt God calling them to begin this ministry as a way to demonstrate God’s love to families who don’t experience love from their society. The first school opened in 2004. Today, there are three schools with CONTINUED ON PAGE 22
100 boys and girls in each. Children who otherwise wouldn’t receive an education are taught to read and write and receive health and hygiene instruction. Through Schools in the Sand, children and their families also gain access to the Good News of Jesus. Despite visa challenges and the physical difficulty of traveling to rural Pakistan, Frontier Fellowship Associate Director Haemin Lee visited Schools in the Sand in September. He was the first foreign visitor they’d had in several years. Haemin was able to learn more about the ministry, deepen Frontier Fellowship’s relationship with CJ and his wife, encourage them in their work and partner with them in seeking solutions for the long-term sustainability and impact of this important ministry. We thank God for CJ, his wife, the school teachers and donors who have helped make education a possibility for boys and girls through Schools in the Sand. May God continue to make His love known to the Meghwal and Bhil through the witness of this ministry. + TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR WORK IN PAKISTAN, CONTACT HAEMIN LEE (HLEE@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
LOOKING AHEAD RICHARD HANEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
2018 promises to be another exciting year for the Frontier Fellowship family. We believe God is calling us to offer frontier mission resources in new ways and to new communities. We continually ask ourselves three questions in our work. Who are we seeking to engage in frontier mission? Where is God leading us to find partners and projects? How best can we mobilize the American Church for involvement with ministries serving unreached peoples? Our years as Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship naturally focused our attention on helping Presbyterian congregations. In this new era as Frontier Fellowship, we’re following God’s call to mobilize more widely, beyond denominational boundaries. We feel particularly drawn toward working alongside younger generations. We’re in the early stages of building an internship program to offer mentoring and discipleship to recent college graduates and young adults who want to explore frontier mission. This past year we sensed God leading us to Southeast Asia, where Buddhists as well as Muslims still wait to hear the message of Jesus and His Kingdom. In 2018, we hope to explore opportunities in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mongolia and China. Followers of Jesus in these nations are in the minority but represent dynamic expressions of Christian faith. In some cases, they may also be the vanguard of a new mission force: Chinese diaspora believers are found all over the world, and Mongolians can enter several key countries without needing visas. As we mobilize individuals and churches, we encourage people to pray for and against certain forces. We pray for unreached people groups to gain access to the Gospel. And we pray against injustice, repression and persecution. We seek to help people grow deeper in their understanding of frontier mission, connecting Western churches with our indigenous partners and their ministries. Join us this year as we pray for more people to encounter the Good News of Jesus. Invite us to visit, encourage and serve your church as you deepen your engagement among least-reached people and places. Explore our website and follow us on social media for regular stories, recommended resources, videos, photos and other tools to help you better understand and care about God’s world. Consider traveling with our staff this year and see firsthand what He’s doing at the frontier. Come with us on the journey as together we seek God’s Kingdom for all peoples. +
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Inviting believing communities to engage people groups where the Good News of Jesus and His Kingdom is not yet known
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Special edition of The Frontier Journal, a quarterly magazine with news and stories from the ministry of Frontier Fellowship
Published on Jan 25, 2018
Special edition of The Frontier Journal, a quarterly magazine with news and stories from the ministry of Frontier Fellowship