THE FRONTIER journal NEWS + STORIES FROM THE MINISTRY OF FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP
MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PAGE 2
REGIONAL NEWS PAGE 9
SURI LITERACY PROJECT PAGE 11
A BETTER WORD PAGE 4
MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR RICHARD HANEY
Last year, I visited our ministry partners and projects in Southwest Ethiopia. I traveled with my colleague Bob Von Schimmelmann, and we were guided by retired missionary John Haspels, who spent a number of years working in the region. I remember driving slowly through the town of Mizan early one morning en route to the village of Tulegit. Along the dusty roads, I stayed alert to spy a hawk, rabbit or other wildlife. Tulegit is home to the Suri––a semi-nomadic people group which has begun to embrace the Gospel in recent years. During our visit there, I met Ulrike and Endashaw who headed up the Suri Literacy Project, an initiative using the partially translated Suri Bible to help children learn to read and write in their own language. Ulrike, a teacher from Germany, led the project for several years. She had to return to Germany last summer, but Endashaw, an Ethiopian teacher from Mizan, was willing to lead the project going forward. Frontier Fellowship joined the work by contributing toward his salary and funding a new assistant. We were shocked and grieved to learn last November that Endashaw had been ambushed and killed. And recently, another teacher in the village of Tulegit also was murdered, apparently in a case of mistaken identity. Sadly, these weren’t isolated events. The Suri practice retributive justice or vengeance. It’s a tragic custom that creates an endless cycle of violence and claims the lives of innocent victims. Years ago, John Haspels and his wife Gwen were ambushed and shot while driving. Though they escaped with their lives, they carry the scars and injuries to this day. Yet after months of surgeries and recovery in the US, they returned to Ethiopia and publicly forgave their assailant. This profound act rippled throughout Suri communities. People responded to the message of Jesus and asked to be baptized. Churches began to grow. Yet the recent murders remind us that cultural transformation takes time and endures setbacks. We pray for more forgiveness and an end to violence. We believe that Jesus, who laid down His life for His friends (John 15:13) and gives us peace with one another, will bring reconciliation to this region where enmity now reigns among the Suri and neighboring groups like the Dizi, Bench and Toposa. We’re confident in the power of the Holy Spirit to redeem communities and belief systems. May the ongoing translation of God’s Word become food and drink for needy souls. For all of us are hungry for Good News and thirsty for peace.
© 2019 FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP page 2
COMING THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON
THE NAMES OF
A DAILY DEVOTIONAL FOR ADVENT
arriving in your mailbox this november | To REQUEST additional copies for your friends, small group or church, visit frontierfellowship.com/media/advent-devotional or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Better Word HANNAH TEAGUE, CREATIVE DIRECTOR WITH JOHN + GWEN HASPELS
THE OMO VALLEY OF SOUTHWEST ETHIOPIA— A PLACE DESCRIBED BY NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC AS ONE OF AFRICA’S LAST FRONTIERS—IS HOME TO THE SURI, A SEMINOMADIC PEOPLE GROUP. THIS REMOTE SOCIETY HAS REMAINED RELATIVELY UNCHANGED FOR CENTURIES—FREE FROM EUROPEAN COLONIALISM + UNAFFECTED BY MODERNITY UNTIL RECENT YEARS. IN OUR WORK AROUND THE WORLD, WE’RE PRIVILEGED TO WITNESS THE EXCITING GROWTH OF THE CHURCH AS IT BECOMES ESTABLISHED IN NEW CONTEXTS. IN THE STORY OF THE SURI, HOWEVER, WE’RE REMINDED THAT LASTING TRANSFORMATION SOMETIMES COMES SLOWLY + AT GREAT COST ALONG THE WAY. continued on page 6
Until the 1970s, the Suri had no access to the Gospel or interaction with
followers of Jesus. By the early 90s, there were still no known Suri Christians. In 1992, American missionaries John and Gwen Haspels moved to the region under an agreement with the Ethiopian government to support rehabilitation work following a devastating famine. John and Gwen undertook development efforts in infrastructure and healthcare, seeking opportunities to build bridges between Suri culture and the truths of the Gospel. Their ministry since then has been one of both heartbreak and joy—even the miraculous survival of an ambush in 2014—and they remain expectant of what God will do as He builds His Kingdom among the Suri. The Suri are comprised of three main clans with a total population of nearly
55,000. Two clans primarily herd cattle, while the third farm and keep bees. Of roughly a dozen tribes living in the Omo Valley, the Suri interact regularly with half. Some of these tribes have migrated from South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda due to drought, famine or war. There’s frequent fighting due to cattle raiding or encroaching upon each others’ territories. While violence against their neighbors is common, blood feuds perpetuate cycles of revenge between Suri families as well. When a person is killed (whether on purpose or by accident), a blood debt must be paid. Male relatives bear the responsibility of vengeance, and female members of the family often act as instigators, urging their husbands or sons to restore the family’s honor. There are two ways to satisfy a blood debt. In a revenge killing, a close male relative of the victim targets the perpetrator or another male in the family, often the firstborn son. If the son is still young, the family taking vengeance will wait— sometimes years—until he is “ripe,” or considered a man (around age 15). The other alternative is a reconciliation ceremony. A female child of the murderer is given as a wife to the brother of the victim, and a lamb is sacrificed on the murderer’s shoulders. This satisfies the debt, although the process can be subjective and the victim’s family might demand more. Revenge killings occur more frequently, largely from convenience. “The Suri are opportunistic,” says Gwen. “If someone had a chance to take revenge, he wouldn’t wait for reconciliation.” Sometimes young men will disappear from their villages because they know they’ll be targeted for what their father or uncle did in the past. Gwen continues, “The Suri live in the moment, but they have long memories.” The Suri believe in a good creator god who made the world but then withdrew
from human affairs. They also practice animism, the belief that supernatural forces animate the world around them. Viewing life through this lens, the Suri participate in rituals to appease the spirits. They attribute natural events and illnesses as threats from the spirit world and avoid places and people they fear are cursed. Witch doctors, shamans and dreamers use divination and magic to predict and manipulate the future. Unlike most Westerners, the Haspels have firsthand knowledge of the influence of curses and spiritual forces on communities. “Because the Suri understand the spiritual world to be so strong, they need to see Jesus as powerful over their physical and spiritual realities,” John relates. So what does it look like for the Good News of Jesus to come to a people group for the first time? We recognize aspects of God-instilled beauty in every culture. But the reality of living in a world broken by sin is that every culture needs to be made new by Him. For the Suri, traditions of fear and revenge are incompatible with the freedom and grace Jesus makes possible. The Gospel offers a completely new paradigm—transforming death to life and darkness to light. page 6
Since its birth in the mid 1990s, the Suri Church has faced opposition from
culturally normalized violence and the control of witch doctors. Even for Christians, social pressures and tendencies toward destructive practices remain strong, and some have returned to former ways of life. Leaders of the church have been targeted and killed in blood feuds. And the majority of Suri followers of Jesus are young, many still in their teens, with limited influence over their society. “It’s a huge struggle for a people group to become rooted and grounded in the truth of the Gospel when so much of their way of life opposes it,” says John. “They have to encounter God in real and meaningful ways, in healings and deliverances. They’ve seen the power of witch doctors and dreamers, and they’ll return to those sources if they don’t believe God is greater.” “We didn’t come to them bringing many words of wisdom,” he continues, paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 2:4–5, “We spoke about the cross and pointed them to the power of God.” Although they no longer live in Southwest Ethiopia, the Haspels remain
committed to the Suri. As retributive violence continues to take its toll on communities, they’re actively involved in reconciliation. The example from their own life has been significant. After being ambushed and shot several years ago, the Suri expected John to seek revenge by killing their attacker or taking one of his female relatives. Instead, the Haspels publicly forgave him. Since then, the Haspels have helped the Suri make peace with each other and their neighbors and break historic cycles of violence. John points to Genesis 4:1–12 and Deuteronomy 21:1–9 to describe the consequences of sin on people and the land, and then to the hope of Hebrews 12:24. While sin has caused destruction of life and demands atonement, the blood of Jesus, shed on our behalf, offers forgiveness and redemption. Symbolic ceremonies are helping the Suri and their neighbors gain a deeper understanding of this reality. It’s remarkable that at the time of this writing, peace is holding between the Suri and Toposa, their most feared enemy. As a number of these ceremonies have taken place, rain followed—an event that holds supernatural meaning for the Suri. They received it as a sign of God’s mercy and healing for their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done in Suriland is what we’ve asked God
since the beginning,” shares Gwen. “That was our prayer before we ever stepped foot there. We’re compelled to persevere in this work because we care so deeply for these people and want them to know Jesus.” We too long for the Suri to encounter God as the giver of abundant life, freeing them from the cycles that bind them and their children to vengeance. We’re asking God to create new hearts in men and women who will reject violence and embrace the way of peace. We don’t yet know what future chapters hold in the story of the Suri as God’s Kingdom becomes established in all its fullness. Yet even as the weary earth cries out from generations of bloodshed and brokenness, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross speaks a better word—a message of reconciliation that declares a final end to hostility (Ephesians 2:13–16). And as Hosea 6:3 promises, surely He will come to us like rain and wash us in His grace anew.
REGIONAL NEWS ETHIOPIA LIGHT OF HOPE MINISTRY ETHIOPIA (LOHME)
LOHME began construction of two new schools in two villages over the summer in preparation for the new academic year. LOHME expects them to provide educational access for more than 1,200 children during this first year. LOHME has been working on an Arsi Oromo translation of the Bible for the past 12 years in collaboration with the Ethiopian Bible Society. The New Testament was published in 2014, and the translation and checking of the Old Testament was finally completed in early 2019. LOHME is now preparing the manuscript of the entire Bible for printing. TO LEARN MORE, VISIT FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM OR CONTACT INFO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM.
The Gospel continues to transform the Jimma region, even in the midst of many challenges. More than 1,100 people at 11 sites completed training to better equip them to share the Good News among the region’s diverse ethnic groups. After these events, trainees went out into their communities to share the Gospel with others, and 1,113 people responded by expressing new faith in Jesus.
SURI LITERACY PROJECT
The project suffered another major blow. Last November, the coordinator was killed, and in June, the head literacy teacher was killed. The Suri culture of revenge continues to lead to violence with tragic consequences. Pray for followers of Jesus to be agents of cultural and spiritual change among the Suri people. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT MISSION ADVOCATE BOB VON SCHIMMELMANN (BVONSCHIMMELMANN@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
NIGER EGLISE EVANGÉLIQUE DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE DU NIGER (EERN)
With the help of a Frontier Fellowship grant matched by a Virginia church, EERN completed construction of a school where children are beginning the new school year. A school that opened in 2017 with 47 students now has 385 enrolled. Many villages only have an elementary school, and the distance to the nearest middle or high school is too far for students to walk every day. EERN has built hosting centers on church properties in some of the larger towns to provide places for students to stay. These centers are staffed by church planters and their wives who serve as “dormitory parents.” TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR DONALD MARSDEN (DMARSDEN@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
CONTINUED ON PAGE 10
SUDAN + SOUTH SUDAN DARFUR OUTREACH
Sudanese pro-democracy protestors were attacked by the ruling military council in early June. Shortly after the violence began, the government shut down the internet in order to limit communication among civilians. Only recently have we been able to contact our friends. Pray that the new joint civilian-military power sharing agreement will help Sudan transition to a more stable future. We’ve begun supporting a student who’s studying to become a pastor at Nile Theological College in South Sudan. Formerly an imam in Sudan, he’s now following Jesus and working among ethnic groups without access to the Gospel.
SUDANESE / SOUTH SUDANESE REFUGEE MINISTRY
Ten young men from an unstable region of Sudan just graduated from a program that equips new followers of Jesus from a Muslim background for ministry. Most of these men have a bachelor’s degree, and they’ve all created business plans as a next step toward becoming self-employed while also leading house churches. Pray for their rapidly growing ministries and their safety.
UNACCOMPANIED MINORS FOSTER PROGRAM
Our friend, Peter, facilitated a trauma healing class in June to South Sudanese orphans and unaccompanied minors at a refugee camp in Kenya. He believes it’s vital to heal the wounds of the heart before a person can take real steps forward and begin to help others. Pray that these children who’ve experienced so much tragedy can find safety and love in foster homes and be able to go to school. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR DENISE SCIUTO (DSCIUTO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
CENTRAL ASIA CENTRAL ASIAN MIGRANTS MINISTRY
Associate Director Donald Marsden and five others traveled to Russia in June to visit partners who are serving among Central Asian migrant workers. This trip provided opportunities to begin and deepen friendships as the team met with workers from several cities. A group of ministry leaders from seven cities plans to meet this fall to encourage one another and expand their work into new areas of Russia.
CENTRAL ASIAN YOUTH OUTREACH
A local church built a playground on its property to welcome children from the neighborhood. The pastor also dreams of opening a café which will employ Christians and generate ministry income, while also providing a gathering space for young people. He’s working with regional partners to develop this project.
RURAL COMMUNITY CENTER
The center is providing healthcare education for safe pregnancies and childbirth to internally displaced people living in camps. It’s also increasing addiction recovery services for men through counseling, support groups and job training. Pray that the center will be able to implement a drug treatment program for women. CONTINUED ON PAGE 13
SURI LITERACY PROJECT ETHIOPIA
The Suri people have only recently gained a written language through an ongoing Bible translation effort. The Suri Literacy Project is introducing literacy programs in public schools using newly translated Bible stories, the only written resources available in the Suri language. The Suri Literacy Project became a Frontier Fellowship partner in 2018.
PROGRAMS Development of primary school curriculum and teacher training in cooperation with the Ethiopian governmentâ€™s Ministry of Education
Advancing literacy among the Suri people through access to Godâ€™s Word in the language that speaks to them best
+ For new leaders to join this work + For an end to violence in the region + For Suri children to have opportunities to learn to read and write in their own language
Komoruye, kagainydɔ hunde hinisa nunu a bu na ani challi na chirbhisi zugo kali kali na guyi lɔgɔ na zugo shaw ngadhiyoye. JONAH 4:2B SURI TRANSLATION
We’re now partnering with two shelters serving vulnerable women in two Central Asian countries.
One shelter is celebrating the graduation of 60 more women from job training in cooking, baking and sewing. Twenty-five received diplomas for achieving specific skill levels. The staff provided counseling services for 26 people and helped five women access healthcare. Our new partners are working in a particularly disadvantaged community. Thanks to a small local church offering space, they were able to invite several women to hear the story of the woman who touched Jesus’ clothes in search of healing (Mark 5:25–34). The women enjoyed the story so much that they want to meet regularly to hear more about Jesus. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT ASSOCIATE DIRECTORS RITA JOHNSON (RJOHNSON@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM) + DONALD MARSDEN (DMARSDEN@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
DIASPORA US BRIDGE BUILDING
It’s a joy to help churches form redemptive relationships with local Muslim communities. Less than two years ago, members of one Illinois church knew hardly anything about the Muslims living in their city. But where there was once apprehension and lack of understanding, there’s now openness and trust. United by common values, they’re enjoying authentic friendship, respectful dialogue, holiday events, social gatherings and service projects. They’ve discovered Jesus is powerfully present with them as they build bridges of friendship and learn to love their neighbors. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR DAN MCNERNEY (DMCNERNEY@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
Associate Director Taliilee Fiqruu continues to make progress in her networking efforts among Oromo churches in the US. In early summer, she participated in a three-day consultation conference in Minnesota. Oromo churches from around the US planned the conference, and the event committee invited Taliilee to sing. During her time there, she had the opportunity to meet with several Oromo pastors and worship leaders from across the country. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR TALIILEE FIQRUU (TFIQRUU@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
MIDDLE EAST + ARABIAN PENINSULA EGYPT
The Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo is training a new cohort of church planters. In addition to establishing new churches in Egypt, many of these specially trained ministry leaders are becoming missionaries in South Sudan, Turkey, Gaza and Lebanon (among Syrian refugees). Egypt is now training and sending more Christian missionaries than any other country in the Middle East.
Pars Theological Centre continues its theological education and pastoral care for CONTINUED ON PAGE 14
leaders of the underground Church in Iran. Iranian followers of Jesus experience the daily risk of persecution, imprisonment and suffering on account of their faith. Pray for the men and women who are leading the emerging Iranian Church and for Pars as it serves these brothers and sisters.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (UAE)
Of the seven countries on the Arabian Peninsula, the Gospel is spreading most actively in the UAE. As a growing number of people from a Muslim background become followers of Jesus, they need support to form new ways of living. Our partners are providing pastoral care and discipleship for new followers of Jesus. This community has grown so significantly that additional resources and places of refuge are needed to welcome, counsel and equip them. It’s often easier to facilitate this care and training in nearby countries that have greater safety and freedom. Pray for followers of Jesus as they grow in their faith and share with others how He has transformed their lives. TO LEARN MORE, VISIT FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM OR CONTACT INFO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM.
INDIA EMPOWER BELIEVERS CONNECTION (EBC)
EBC recently held training seminars for church planters and ministry leaders in two states. One woman shared how moving it was to have her feet washed by a man during one session as a practice of servant leadership (John 13:1–17). She said her culture expects women to serve men, but Jesus frees men and women to serve one another.
NEW LIFE MISSION CHURCH (NLMC)
This summer NLMC organized a massive week-long outreach event, during which nearly 2,000 teams visited more than 42,000 villages. We thank God that more than two million people heard the Good News of Jesus for the first time, and hundreds of thousands expressed interest in following Him. NLMC is sending teams to follow up and facilitate Bible studies in these villages.
Our partners hope to reach 10,000 influential Muslim leaders with the Gospel. They’re currently mentoring more than 1,000 new followers of Jesus via social media apps. Their goal for growth is to reach a tipping point that causes new self-replicating movements toward Jesus to emerge. Pray for the team’s safety and for funding for their ministry and living expenses. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR CODY WATSON (CWATSON@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
PAKISTAN SCHOOLS IN THE SAND
An American donor offered to fund 80% of the cost of a new classroom. Schools in the Sand held a meeting recently with local parents, challenging them to fund the balance of construction costs through donations and volunteer labor. Our partners continue to host outreach events that provide opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus with the Meghwal people. TO LEARN MORE, VISIT FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM OR CONTACT INFO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM.
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Quarterly magazine with news and stories from the ministry of Frontier Fellowship