THE FRONTIER journal
NEWS + STORIES FROM THE MINISTRY OF FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP
MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PAGE 2
REGIONAL UPDATES PAGE 3
MINISTRY PARTNER PROFILE: LIGHT OF HOPE MINISTRY ETHIOPIA PAGE 10
BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS PAGE 4
MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR RICHARD HANEY
How do we talk about the journey by which Christianity gets introduced, translated and assimilated into a new culture? The Christian Church was born in the 1st century CE among Jews in Jerusalem and moved in fairly short order into Gentile communities throughout the Roman Empire. In the two millenniums since, the Gospel has been expressed and practiced in an ever-growing number of peoples and places. Yet this didn’t happen without struggles and even crises along the way. In Acts 15, we read of the Jerusalem Council pondering the challenge of cultural outsiders becoming followers of Jesus and therefore members of the Body of Christ. Considered retrospectively, the council’s decision in favor of Gentile inclusion opened the door for Paul’s ministry and many subsequent translations of the Gospel into other cultural settings. We can think of the Gospel as a singular story or melody with many variations. No one expression or single culture’s apprehension of the Christian faith may be considered normative. Yet the many expressions, or translations, of this message and worldview share common elements. Mission scholars and practitioners usually describe this process as inculturation or contextualization. Missiological anthropologist Aylward Shorter defines inculturation as “the ongoing dialogue” and “creative and dynamic relationship between the Christian message and a culture.” Historian Andrew Walls writes, “[S]ubsequent centuries of Christian history bear witness to an ongoing series of translations of the good news of Jesus Christ into a variety of cultural settings: Hellenistic, Roman, and European. Today those translations are reaching into the cultures of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.” Like Walls, I prefer the term “translation” to picture the Word of Christ “applied to the distinctives of a culture, and thus to its commanding heights.” Frontier Fellowship partners with Light of Hope Ministry Ethiopia (LOHME), one of the primary mission agents translating the Gospel into the language and cultural forms of the Arsi Oromo people. Our associate director, Taliilee Fiqruu (formerly Badecha), jointly serving with LOHME and Frontier Fellowship, is pioneering an effort to create worship songs and liturgies while revitalizing a significant Arsi Oromo custom. Her wisdom and musical talent uniquely suit her for this contextual theologizing. You’ll read more of the story in this issue’s feature article. (See page 4.) We’re learning from our LOHME friends and others around the world what it looks like to incarnate the Good News in culturally meaningful ways. It’s a privilege to envision God’s coming Kingdom through their eyes.
© 2018 FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP page 2
REGIONAL UPDATES OUR ASSOCIATE DIRECTORS SHARE GLIMPSES OF GOD AT WORK AROUND THE WORLD
LIGHT OF HOPE MINISTRY ETHIOPIA (LOHME)
We thank God for the positive changes taking place in Ethiopia following the election of the new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. Since assuming office, he has released political prisoners, encouraged freedom of speech, removed corrupt politicians and sought peace and reconciliation between ethnic and faith groups and nations. We pray Ethiopia will continue to stabilize under his leadership. With the shift in the political environment, LOHME has been able to resume construction of Light of Hope Academy, a Christian college that will train nurses and teachers to serve among the unreached. The exterior walls and roof were recently completed, and plastering work is underway. Also, as funds allow, LOHME hopes to build elementary schools in six new villages. An Arsi Oromo translation of the Old Testament is now 70% complete and should be ready for publishing in early 2019. An audio version of the New Testament was dedicated earlier this year, and LOHME has since distributed 80 Talking Bible audio devices to pastors, evangelists and churches. We celebrate God’s Word coming alive to people in their heart language. TO LEARN MORE, VISIT FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM OR CONTACT INFO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM.
SOUTHWEST ETHIOPIA The Maji Apple Orchard project continues to move toward self-sustainability. A healthy crop of apples was recently sold in local markets, and proceeds went to the work of the Dizi Church. Our partners are now introducing other fruits to the orchard and selling seedlings. We praise God for providing this avenue to financially support the growth of His Kingdom among the Dizi people. Management of the Dizi Bible translation project is being transferred to the Seed Company. Pray for this period of transition, for details to be worked out smoothly and that the translation team will be encouraged and unhindered in their work. The Jimma Bethel Synod’s outreach program is thriving among the Menja, Muslim Oromos, urban dwellers and Jimma university students. As more people are drawn to Jesus, there’s an increasing need for trained pastors to lead churches. Pray that more lay leaders will find opportunities to attend Bible schools and seminaries as they serve the growing needs of the Church. Update: Mission Advocate Bob Von Schimmelmann is now the primary coordinator for our Southwest Ethiopia partnerships. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT BOB VON SCHIMMELMANN (VONSCHIMMELMANN@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM). CONTINUED ON PAGE 9
BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS HANNAH TEAGUE CREATIVE DIRECTOR
This issue’s focus on Gospel contextualization in Ethiopia gave us the opportunity to talk with Associate Director Taliilee Fiqruu about her doctoral research and work in the revitalization of Arsi Oromo cultural practices. Her dissertation, Reviving Aspects of Ateetee: An Arsi Oromo Women’s Musical Ritual to Empower Women to Protect Their Human Rights and Participate in Society’s Social and Religious Life (https://bit.ly/2LepJQO), was instrumental to this article.
+++ As a girl growing up in a Christian family in rural Ethiopia, Taliilee Fiqruu didn’t know why she always cried after reading the Bible. From an early age, she remembers her parents’ dedication to prayer and an innate desire to create her own worship songs—at times getting in trouble for neglecting the care of her grandmother’s flocks because she’d sneaked away to church. She’d leave early for school to walk around her village, stopping people on their way to the market and asking if they knew Jesus. Although she’d never seen a woman preach, she pleaded with God to give her a guitar and send her to Bible school. Everything in her life drove her to intimacy with Jesus, increasing her love for God’s Word and her desire for others to know Him. Looking back, Taliilee says those formative experiences placed her on a trajectory towards the work to which she’s dedicated her life. Taliilee is Arsi Oromo, a subgroup of the Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnolinguistic people. The Oromo were primarily traditional religionists until the Abyssinians conquered them in the 19th century, seizing their land and forcing them to convert to Christianity. To resist the systematic destruction of their culture, the Arsi Oromo largely turned to Islam as an “escape religion,” finding it more tolerant of their traditional practices. Frontier Fellowship’s connection to the Arsi Oromo was born through the prayer of our first executive director, Harold Kurtz, who longed to see Ethiopia’s Muslims hear the Good News of Jesus. Through miraculous events, Harold was introduced to a Muslim-background Christian Arsi Oromo man who began the work of Light of Hope Ministry Ethiopia (LOHME) in 2000. LOHME’s vision is to provide access to the Gospel through community development and spiritual formation in the Arsi Oromo context. With education, vocational and pastoral training, Bible translation and pioneering work in contextualization, LOHME is creating opportunities for people to encounter Jesus in their own language and culture for the first time. (See page 10.) After joining LOHME in 2001, the turning point for Taliilee’s ministry came in 2008 when she heard Harold Kurtz preach on Peter’s vision of the inclusion of the Gentiles in Acts 11—a message she believes God meant specifically for her. She’d grown up believing her cultural heritage had no place in her faith. For centuries, Ethiopian churches had rejected Oromo culture as incompatible with Christianity. Traditional practices were deemed demonic, and the Oromo language couldn’t be used in church settings. Even traditional dress was considered the clothing of devil worshippers. Coming from this background, it’s no surprise the message of Acts 11 was revelatory for Taliilee. “Before then, I didn’t understand how a Christian could listen to cultural music,” she says. “We’d left that behind. Now I finally CONTINUED ON PAGE 6
BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS (continued) understood God has no favorite race or language and every culture has a place in His Kingdom.” With her eyes open to this truth, Taliilee started writing songs using traditional Arsi music. She noticed how her Christian and Muslim friends alike responded because the songs reflected their cultural values and experiences. Her songwriting led her to ateetee melodies, initiating her journey to revitalize Arsi culture through the hope of the Gospel. Since before the introduction of organized religion, married Arsi Oromo women have led a musical institution called ateetee, a practice that protects and empowers their personal and community interests. In times of crisis—conflict between individuals or clans, drought, abuse of a pregnant wife by a huband— women join together to intervene through lament, prayer and song. Ateetee gatherings don’t take place every month or even every year, but as serious issues arise, women step in to serve as peacemakers. While limited to particular events, their ateetee roles give them respect and authority in society they seldom otherwise receive. Whenever women are on ateetee duty, they’re considered powerful and sacred. They go to a riverbank or under a tree and pray and sing day and night, dedicating themselves on behalf of the community. “Everyone in my area knows, when women pray, God gives rain,” Taliilee says. “Arsi Oromo see the created world as divine in a way that many Christians don’t,” she continues. Nature acts as a sort of mediation, connecting people to Waaqa, their understanding of God. Far from foreign, the concept of one God and a spiritual world are intrinsic parts of Arsi life. Formerly rejected by the Ethiopian Church and now suppressed by more radical Islamic leaders, many Arsi women are struggling to find a place for their ateetee ritual. The Church has done little to understand Arsi beliefs and contextualize Christianity for them in culturally honoring ways. But through Taliilee’s exploration of ateetee, she’s found virtually every aspect can be used as a bridge between the Gospel and those still waiting to hear it. Without contextualization, Taliilee argues, the Good News of Jesus isn’t really good news for everyone. “You have to hear it in your language, in a way that makes sense to you culturally,” she says. The ways people are accustomed to posture themselves toward their sense of the divine and their community have meaning. “How can a church possibly attract Arsi people to the Gospel,” she asks, “if they refuse to learn the ways Arsi relate to and understand God and His creation?” Just as Jesus “became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, The Message), contextualization is about incarnation. We can’t communicate the Gospel in a meaningful way in the absence of relationship, of dwelling with one another. Without love, even the most eloquent message is reduced to noise without melody or meaning (1 Corinthians 13:1). Where colonization is about domination and coercion, contextualization is about embracing one another and finding common ground. “Our job as ministers of the Gospel is to work wisely with people—to open our eyes to the realities of their lives,” shares Taliilee. “If we don’t speak each others’ languages [linguistic
and cultural], we remain distant and foreign.” Her approach reflects Paul’s contextualization in Athens (Acts 17:16–34). Through careful, respectful observation of Athenian worship, he identified an opportunity to build a bridge to the Good News of God’s Kingdom. Taliilee sees ateetee’s peacemaking and reconciliation as powerful images of the Gospel. Every ateetee event ends with the sacrifice of a lamb. Elders go between family members or clans and use the blood to wash the person who did wrong, restoring people to one another. This striking connection to Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb opens the door to share about the peace and reconciliation He came to bring and the ministry of peacemaking and reconciliation He gave to His followers (Matthew 5:9; 2 Corinthians 5:17–20). Many Ethiopian Christians still oppose contextualization of the Gospel out of fear of syncretism. Taliilee recognizes the need for wise, precise approaches that are theologically faithful, but she’s not afraid to identify aspects of ateetee as shared beliefs that can narrow social and cultural gaps between people. “There’s always a risk of confusion and offense if we aren’t careful how we contextualize,” she notes. “We must remain spiritually sensitive and rely on the Holy Spirit to guide our understanding.” When a community loses its identity through colonization, it implicates the ways people live in relationship with each other—how they communicate, dress, work, grieve and celebrate. This loss keeps us from recognizing the reflection of God’s image in culturally distinct ways. “Arsi Oromos don’t think Christianity can be for them because it’s always been against them,” Taliilee relates. “We have to deconstruct the imported religious forms of Christianity so we can reconstruct the realities of life in the Kingdom of God.” She finds hope in the Gospel’s power to redeem and restore unique expressions of identity. “It was the Gospel that made me appreciate my culture,” she shares. “As God helped me understand my identity, I began to see the beauty and dignity of the culture into which I was born.” As people encounter Jesus, the Gospel frees them to embrace their earthly, cultural identity and find true fulfillment in their identity as God’s beloved daughters and sons.
“HOW CAN A CHURCH POSSIBLY ATTRACT ARSI PEOPLE TO THE GOSPEL IF THEY REFUSE TO LEARN THE WAYS ARSI RELATE TO + UNDERSTAND GOD + HIS CREATION?”
Taliilee believes Arsi Christians can begin doing the work of ateetee—partnering with women and their communities to create dialogue leading to the peace and reconciliation Jesus offers. In this way, ateetee gains even more meaning by affirming women’s value—not only when they’re in a moment of crisis, but because of their God-given worth. “We can use aspects of ateetee to bring Gospel truth to so many issues of injustice in the world,” Taliilee says. “We have so many songs to sing.” Her hope for Arsi Oromo women? “I dream of the day they sing their melodies in their own language—the songs they’ve been told for so long not to sing,” she answers. “I dream of girls going to the river to fetch water singing their own songs of the Gospel message that reflects their ultimate identity and value.”
Ethiopia Addis Ababa
Africa’s oldest independent nation
people groups ethnically based states
most-populous African nation
Religious Demographics Christianity: 59.7% Islam: 34.5% Traditional religions: 5.5% Non-religious: 0.3%
105 M median age
home of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, one of the world’s oldest Christian churches
“Ethiopia” comes from the Greek word “Aethiopia,” which in the classical period referred to the land south of Egypt in the Upper Nile region data from CIA World Factbook + Joshua Project
REGIONAL UPDATES (continued) NIGER
Rev. Maiki Kadade, president of the Eglise Evangélique de la République du Niger (EERN), visited the US this summer to share about EERN’s work. In addition to visiting churches, he attended the PCUSA General Assembly, the New Wilmington Mission Conference and the Niger Mission Network. We’re grateful for four US churches that have partnered with EERN over the past year. Associate Director Donald Marsden and two representatives from these congregations recently returned from a vision trip to Niger where they spent time with EERN leaders and learned more about their work among unreached people groups. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT DONALD MARSDEN (DMARSDEN@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
SUDAN / SOUTH SUDAN
The Bible school in Sudan continues to struggle financially. Many students don’t have a home church to assist with tuition. Nonetheless, teachers remain committed to the school and to a new English language class for refugees. Several pastors from Darfur received further biblical and vocational training to help them serve Muslim communities. Their ministry is bearing fruit through 100 new followers of Jesus, 23 young house churches and 25 emerging leaders. Pray for Muslims who want to know more about Jesus but face the anger and rejection of family members. Our partners are continuing to serve among the unreached people groups living in refugee camps. Pray that God’s love, peace and provision will be made tangible to those who’ve been uprooted by conflict and famine. Pray also for the nearly 3 million minors who make up 63% of South Sudan’s refugee and internally displaced population (UNHCR/OCHA, June 2018). In August, opposing groups in South Sudan signed a peace agreement to end the civil war that began in 2013. Several accords have been signed and violated over the past five years, but leaders believe this agreement will hold. Churches have begun a grassroots movement in trauma healing and reconciliation. Ask God to use this initiative to help bring lasting peace and healing to this nation. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT DENISE SCIUTO (DSCIUTO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
A new ministry friend recently hosted a gathering of 80 youth leaders from across Central Asia. Pray that the time spent with a larger group of believers for training, rest and encouragement will re-energize these young adults as they share the Gospel in their communities. Thanks to a generous donation, we were able to provide partial scholarships for attendees. A similar gathering is planned this fall for leaders who are sharing the Gospel among Central Asians in Russia. We rejoice that one of our partners received funding to help support a holistic ministry to at-risk women in Central Asia. We’re developing a relationship with a similar ministry in another region and pray that God will continue to provide for the needs of vulnerable women. Pray for peace in Central Asia following multiple bombings and an attack of foreign cyclists over the last several months. Ask that the Prince of Peace will walk the roads of this region and transform hearts. Update: Associate Directors Rita Johnson and Donald Marsden are now the primary coordinators for our Central Asia partnerships. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT RITA JOHNSON (RJOHNSON@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM) OR DONALD MARSDEN (DMARSDEN@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM). CONTINUED ON PAGE 12
MINISTRY PARTNER PROFILE:
Light of Hope Ministry ETHIOPIA
LIGHT OF HOPE MINISTRY ETHIOPIA (LOHME) WAS FOUNDED IN 2000 + BECAME A FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP PARTNER IN 2005.
WHO THE MINISTRY SERVES ETHIOPIAâ€™S MUSLIM-MAJORITY ARSI OROMO PEOPLE POPULATION: 6 MILLION (JOSHUA PROJECT)
MINISTRY PROJECTS + PROGRAMS EDUCATION, SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION, NURSE + TEACHER TRAINING, COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS, EVANGELISM, CHURCH PLANTING, BIBLE TRANSLATION, DEVELOPMENT OF ARSI OROMO WORSHIP MUSIC + CHURCH MOBILIZATION
IMPACT HOLISTIC OUTREACH TO THE ARSI OROMO WITH THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS THROUGH CULTURALLY MEANINGFUL FORMS
SUPPORT LOHMEâ€™S WORK https://bit.ly/2MoupII
REGIONAL UPDATES (continued) DIASPORA HOUSTON OUTREACH Associate Director Kristin Huffman and our intern, April McAllister, spent the summer making connections and gathering information from ministries serving unreached people groups in Houston. April also taught a Bible study on reaching out to refugees and attended several interfaith dialogues. We’re making progress on the development of a year-long discipleship and frontier mission experience for young adults. This leadership formation program will invite young adults to participate in a small-group community through weekly study and reflection, monthly online interaction and quarterly retreats with diaspora ministries across the US. At the end of the year, participants will have the opportunity to visit one of our international ministry partners. We hope to begin this program in the fall of 2019 and ask for your prayers as we continue developing it. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT KRISTIN HUFFMAN (KHUFFMAN@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
MUSLIM OUTREACH Much of the Western world lacks an understanding of Islam and how to relate to Muslims in their communities. Many people are amplifying a message of hate, trying to generate fear and marginalization of Muslims. But we believe God calls us to embrace them, and we’re committed to helping American churches take the lead in loving their Muslim neighbors. One of the best tools for those who want to be theologically and practically equipped for building bridges of friendship is a four-part video series called Muslims, Christians and Jesus by Carl Medearis. A growing number of churches are reading his book by the same title, listening to lectures and engaging in group discussions. Increasingly, we’ve been connecting people with these materials as they take steps towards gaining a basic understanding of Islam and Muslim life. For followers of Jesus who want to deepen their relationships with Muslims, we recommend additional resources and seminars to help them learn more about what the Quran teaches and how it relates to the Bible. We’d love to come alongside you or others in your church as you explore how to get to know and serve Muslims in your city. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT DAN MCNERNEY (DMCNERNEY@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
OROMO OUTREACH Three years ago, Associate Director Taliilee Fiqruu was invited by an Oromo family in Portland to pray and study the Bible with them. Today, nearly 30 people gather weekly in their home, some from long distances, to learn, share page 12
and grow in their faith. Taliilee facilitates the group and encourages others to take leadership roles. She’s also teaching them how to engage their Oromo friends and neighbors with the Good News of Jesus. This group has become a safe place to pray for Oromo people who’ve experienced various forms of persecution, especially during last year’s political crisis. We thank God for this and other gatherings of Oromo believers in the US. We celebrate the ways He’s revealing Himself through Scripture and cultivating a passion for His Kingdom among the Oromo diaspora. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT TALIILEE FIQRUU (TFIQRUU@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
MIDDLE EAST + ARABIAN PENINSULA EGYPT Dr. Atef Gendy, president of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC), visited churches in the Chicago area during the summer and shared stories of the exciting growth of the Church in Egypt. He reports there are now 11 million people publicly following Jesus and between 2–4 million underground Christians from a Muslim background. They make up the largest number of Christians of any Middle Eastern nation. ETSC has grown as well. In 2002, there were approximately 45 students; today there are nearly 400. The seminary has grown to the point of training, educating and sending missionaries throughout the Middle East and Europe. Dr. Gendy expressed his gratitude for Frontier Fellowship and faithful supporters who’ve helped strengthen ETSC and its mission department. Pray for the many Egyptians who continue to struggle in the midst of economic hardship. Pray also for Christians who remain persecuted by radical Muslim groups. The Church is growing, which gives many people hope, but with that growth has come an increase in suffering, too. In 2019, Associate Director Dan McNerney plans to lead a trip to visit our partners. Trip information will be announced soon. Email our office at the address below if you’re interested in this opportunity. TO LEARN MORE, VISIT FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM OR CONTACT INFO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM.
ARABIAN PENINSULA Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei and Revolutionary Guard are attempting to suppress any voices or production of materials that oppose their ideology. In recent months, they’ve shut down printing shops throughout the country that were producing illegal Bibles. Pray for the individuals who are now imprisoned after being caught printing Bibles. CONTINUED ON PAGE 15
REGIONAL UPDATES (continued) The Iranian economy is suffering, and new sanctions from the US and Europe have further crippled the strength of the Iranian currency. Mass strikes are being held throughout the country. While many Iranians are suffering, Christians often face greater struggles. Pray for the numerous Iranian followers of Jesus who are in prison, many with sentences as lengthy as 10 years. Pray that the underground church will continue to flourish despite persecution. Mehrdad Fatehi and his daughter, Shadi Fatehi, from Pars Theological Centre in London are visiting the US this fall. Pars provides spiritual formation and theological education for the emerging Iranian Church. Pray for Mehrdad and Shadi as they share the vision for Pars’ work and invite American churches to become involved. TO LEARN MORE, VISIT FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM OR CONTACT INFO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM.
SOUTH ASIA INDIA Following a leadership gathering in May, Christian ministries in North India sent out 689 church planting leaders for an intensive week of Gospel sharing in over 13,000 villages. Hundreds of small discipleship groups were established, and thousands of individuals have invited church planters back to their villages to learn more. We celebrate the love of God that draws people into His Kingdom and the faithfulness of our partners as they labor to make His name known. Pray that God will continue to water the seeds of faith that have been planted and give strength to our partners as they follow up. Earlier this year, three Christians connected with one of our partners were arrested on charges of attempted conversion. While they were released on bail, their court cases are still active, and they’re experiencing harassment from their communities. Pray that God will encourage them and provide for their needs. In July, three of our ministry friends were badly injured in a bus accident while on their way to provide church training in another region. Nearly 50 people were killed in the accident. Ask God to comfort those who grieve and bring complete healing to those still in recovery. Pray for Associate Director Cody Watson as he prepares to lead a trip to North India in January 2019. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT CODY WATSON (CWATSON@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
PAKISTAN Pakistan continues to be a difficult place for Christians and Muslims alike as they live under the constant threat of terrorism. In July, over 120 people were killed at a political campaign rally, making it the nation’s deadliest attack since 2014. Followers of Jesus face great persecution, but they remain steadfast in their faith. Our partners in Pakistan have expressed concern over recent diplomatic tensions between the US and Pakistan and the US suspension of foreign aid earlier this year. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and for God to give them peace and encourage them in their faith. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT HAEMIN LEE (HLEE@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
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