THE FRONTIER journal
NEWS + STORIES FROM THE MINISTRY OF FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP
CONNECTING MISSION LEADERS CONFERENCE PAGE 3
A PRAYER FOR SOUTHEAST ASIA PAGE 8
REGIONAL UPDATES PAGE 9
GOOD NEWS FOR THE BUDDHIST WORLD PAGE 4
MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR EXPLORING OPPORTUNITIES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA RICHARD HANEY
I recently spent nearly a month in Thailand teaching and exploring. I went to co-lead a seminar on global development for Doctor of Ministry students from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary who are already serving as cross-cultural workers. Throughout the trip, I explored places where both missionaries and Thai Christians are proclaiming the Good News. The 23 NGOs we visited as part of our seminar introduced me to numerous dedicated Westerners serving Burmese and Thai young people. My longrange goal and prayer is to find partners in Thailand and Southeast Asia who are reaching the unreached. We have partners working among Muslims and Hindus, but to date we have no projects or partners in the Buddhist world. Southeast Asia is home for many of the world’s Buddhists. According to the World Christian Database, Buddhists comprise 7% of the world’s population. The largest Buddhist population is in China (218 million), although Thailand has the highest percentage. Its 68 million people are 90% Buddhist, approximately 8% Muslim and less than 1% Christian. Other majority Buddhist nations include Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bhutan, Myanmar, Japan, Mongolia, Laos and Vietnam. The Thai people and culture won my heart’s attention in a matter of days. Thai people are gentle, kind and excel at showing respect. I already had this impression from meeting Thai students 20 years ago when they came to Virginia to study. My wife (who traveled with me) and I reconnected with several of those students over meals in Chiang Mai and Bangkok. As I process this visit, I’m pondering the shades of difference between respect and reverence and worship. Although my knowledge of Buddhism is still fairly limited, my sense is that Buddhists respect the Buddha and follow his teaching but don’t worship him. Buddhism is distinct from Hinduism and the monotheistic religions by not worshipping a deity. This world of Southeast Asia is a fascinating one. I know that visiting Thailand introduced me to only one country among many. We hope to explore more places and learn what God is doing among Buddhists, Muslims and others. It’s one of the world’s great regions where many ethnic peoples still wait to hear about Jesus. Frontier Fellowship is listening to God’s Spirit and discerning our next steps.
Connecting Mission Leaders OCTOBER 26â€“28, 2017
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS WITH GUEST SPEAKERS DR. MIRIAM ADENEY + DR. THARWAT WAHBA MORE INFO + REGISTRATION AT CONNECTINGMISSIONLEADERS.COM
GOOD NEWS FOR THE BUDDHIST WORLD
One morning during his recent sabbatical in Chiang Mai, my friend Todd took a short motorbike ride to study at a coffee shop. Outside one home he saw a spirit house, a small shrine common throughout Thailand where offerings are made to invoke the favor of spirits. He then saw a group of Buddhist monks blessing a new restaurant. He went a bit further and saw a Hindu “Ganesh god” (elephant head statue) guarding a neighborhood. And finally, he looked up and saw Doi Su Thep, a mountain that oversees the city. Doi Su Thep is the site of a large Buddhist temple, or wat, overlooking Chiang Mai—the most important temple in northern Thailand. Within this relatively small area were both structures representing spirits and people engaged in spiritual rituals, all seeking protection for homes, places of business, neighborhoods and the city from evil forces. Do we have anything like this in Western Christianity? A sense that physical spaces and communities are the locus for spiritual activity? Does the unseen spirit world seem real to us? We’ve been taught to trust what we know through empirical means: touch, taste, hearing, sight—or to accept information from trusted experts who excel in measuring reality. Such phenomena as spirits, demons and unseen powers seldom, if ever, fit into our worldview. My trip to Thailand this past spring led me to ponder such realities and their incongruence with my experience. I turned to anthropologist Paul Hiebert’s article, “The Flaw of the Excluded Middle.” Hiebert explains that Westerners see God as real and cosmic and occupying the universe’s upper level, while also at work in creation on the lower, or foundational, level. But these same people (us!) tend to exclude the middle area where not only God works, but where spirits and demons are active as well. Conversely, people in many African and Asian cultures see themselves immersed in a world of spiritual realities and conflict, whether their religion is Buddhist, animistic, Muslim, Hindu or Christian. My friend Trevor, describing an African worldview that “includes the middle,” refers to a spirits-infused world as having a “single-tiered ontology” where spiritual realities aren’t pushed aside by scientific explanations. It’s important for us to realize how people of other cultures recognize what our own cultural bias prevents us from seeing. (CONTINUED ON PAGE 6)
GOOD NEWS FOR THE BUDDHIST WORLD
During my visit, I had a number of conversations with devout Thai Buddhists. Still fascinated by the concept of spirit houses, I asked someone I met about the shrines’ connection with Buddhism. He told me the shrines and the practice of offering food and fruit at them was not a Buddhist practice—but admitted he had a shrine at his home. “So Buddhism and spirit houses are not incompatible?” I asked. “Oh no,” he was quick to respond. With a little digging, I found that spirit houses are pervasive not only in Thailand, but in Cambodia and other Southeast Asian nations as well. Buddhism expert Alex Smith writes in his book, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Buddhism, that Buddhism is a religion that easily adapts to other cultures, absorbing cultural elements into religious practice until it’s nearly impossible to separate the two.
BUDDHISM IS A RELIGION THAT EASILY ADAPTS TO OTHER CULTURES, ABSORBING CULTURAL ELEMENTS INTO RELIGIOUS PRACTICE UNTIL IT’S NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO SEPARATE THE TWO.
A veteran mission worker shared with me that Buddhism in Thailand exists peaceably alongside the traditional practices of spirit house worship and devotion to local spirits. Many Buddhists who have studied the Buddha’s teaching recognize the challenge of reconciling both traditions. But instead of questioning this and categorizing it into an adversarial relationship, they combine the two into one stream of belief. This leads to less confrontation and allows for harmony within themselves and among family and friends—a value held in high cultural esteem. In the missiological world, we think about healthy ways to translate Jesus into existing cultural forms—a practice called contextualization. Without contextualization, key Christian doctrines are incomprehensible to Thai Buddhists given the vast differences between worldviews.
We believe it can be harmful to ask people to give up every aspect of their culture in order to follow Jesus. Instead, a more fruitful approach is to help them understand their cultural practices informed by the new meaning the Gospel provides. We’re eager to learn from creative Christian thinkers and workers in Thailand who are re-examining methods to express the Christian message in Thai language and culture. Making reference to spirit houses as a contextual bridge to the Gospel is one new perspective being considered. We regularly hear stories of Muslims in the Middle East encountering Isa (Jesus) and of the rapidly growing church planting movement among Hindus in northern India. We await similar narratives about Buddhists embracing the Good News of Jesus. Perhaps that day is coming soon. God invites His people to remember the Buddhist world. The citizens of Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Laos and many more places are still waiting for a viable Christian witness that proclaims and demonstrates the love of Christ. Frontier Fellowship’s conviction is that Jesus has a distinct way of expressing Himself through every people group. As Southeast Asians gain access to the message of the Gospel, they embody a perspective of God that enriches and strengthens the faith of the global Church.
AS SOUTHEAST ASIANS GAIN ACCESS TO THE MESSAGE OF THE GOSPEL, THEY EMBODY A PERSPECTIVE OF GOD THAT ENRICHES AND STRENGTHENS THE FAITH OF THE GLOBAL CHURCH.
We continue to explore our part in the story, and we’re excited to find out what Good News looks like for Buddhists and how God may call us to opportunities for engagement. We hope you’ll join us in our journey to discover the beauty of Jesus and His Kingdom as it’s reflected through the peoples and cultures of Southeast Asia.
A Prayer for Southeast Asia I PRAY THAT THE GOD OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE FATHER OF GLORY, MAY GIVE YOU A SPIRIT OF WISDOM + REVELATION AS YOU COME TO KNOW HIM, SO THAT, WITH THE EYES OF YOUR HEART ENLIGHTENED, YOU MAY KNOW WHAT IS THE HOPE TO WHICH HE HAS
THE RICHES OF HIS GLORIOUS INHERITANCE AMONG THE SAINTS, + WHAT IS THE IMMEASURABLE GREATNESS OF HIS POWER FOR US WHO BELIEVE ACCORDING TO THE WORKING OF HIS GREAT POWER. —EPHESIANS 1:17–19 page 8
GLIMPSES FROM OUR ASSOCIATE DIRECTORS OF GOD AT WORK AROUND THE WORLD
AFRICA // ETHIOPIA
LIGHT OF HOPE MINISTRY The Ethiopian government has extended the state of emergency in effect since October following the killing of civilians by regime officials. This is a tactic to silence dissent against the government’s land grab, eviction of farmers, killing of civilians and imprisonment of thousands of opposition party leaders, students, human rights activists and journalists. Pray that God would remove these leaders from power and raise up new ones to care for Ethiopia justly. Light of Hope’s translation team has been working diligently on the translation of the Old Testament into the Arsi Oromo language. God has faithfully provided the people and resources needed for this project. A consultant from Wycliffe recently joined the team to check the translation’s accuracy and clarity and prepare it for publication. Pray for a translation that speaks meaningfully to the hearts of the Oromo people. TO LEARN MORE, VISIT FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM OR CONTACT INFO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM.
SOUTHWEST ETHIOPIA Our partners continue their ministry to the region’s many unreached people groups. We’ve helped raise funds to support leadership development, equipping followers of Jesus to become pastors, evangelists and church planters who can support the work of the growing church. Outcast groups like the Menja are finding acceptance and value among Christians as the Gospel breaks down historically held prejudices. Bible translation in the Dizi language continues through faithful translators currently working through Paul’s letters in the New Testament. The Maji Apple Nursery provides a source of both nutrition and income to the Dizi people. The goal is for the orchard to help the church become self-sustaining. Pray as leaders seek a solution to the orchard damage caused by moles earlier this year. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT TARA CHASE (TCHASE@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
// NIGER We’re excited for the growth of emerging partnerships as we’ve begun to form friendships with ministry leaders and explore opportunities to serve their communities. Among these opportunities is the construction of residential schools where children from rural, predominately Muslim villages can obtain a good education in a safe environment under the care of pastors and their wives who will serve as “dorm parents.” We’ll lead a vision trip there this summer to further deepen relationships. Pray with us as our friends take steps toward building these schools that will give children access to education and the Good News of Jesus. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT DONALD MARSDEN (DMARSDEN@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
AFRICA // SUDAN
Our work in Sudan is focused on supporting the education and training of Fur students at a Bible school. The fifth student just graduated and is heading back to Darfur to pastor house churches. Violence and instability in Darfur and the Nuba Mountains are causing people to flee to refugee camps in neighboring countries. This crisis is giving our friends the opportunity to serve unreached people groups with access into their hearts and lives that wasn’t possible in their home context. Pray for believers facing persecution from the Sudanese government. Thank God for the release of two pastors, imprisoned on exaggerated charges over two years ago.. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT DENISE SCIUTO (DSCIUTO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
CENTRAL ASIA Our partners have been under intense government scrutiny this year, and some are in the process of moving to neighboring countries for safety. Despite difficulties, we’ve continued to support a variety of ministries including evangelism, educational camps for children and anti-human trafficking efforts. Communication continues to be an ongoing challenge due to the security-sensitive nature of our partnerships, but an annual gathering in Turkey has given us the opportunity to connect with Christians from across Central Asia. Our upcoming travel this summer and fall will include exploring potential new partnerships that serve local communities and diaspora communities from other Central Asian nations. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT HAEMIN LEE (HLEE@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM) OR DONALD MARSDEN (DMARSDEN@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
// MUSLIM OUTREACH The current political climate in the US has resulted in a huge growth of interest in building bridges of friendship with Muslim neighbors. American Christians are beginning to dig deeply into the teachings of Jesus as they consider how to respond to the growing numbers of Muslims in the US. We believe this is a God-given opportunity for peacemaking and sharing the message of the Gospel. Resource development, training and mentorship are some of the ways we’re beginning to serve churches and individuals who want to establish interfaith, church-to-mosque relationships. Pray with us as we consider how best to nurture this relatively new frontier mission movement of reaching American Muslims with the Good News of Jesus. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT DAN MCNERNEY (DMCNERNEY@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
// OROMO OUTREACH In God’s sovereignty, many unreached people have moved into our neighborhoods. Among them are the Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest people group, now living in every major US city. Thousands fled their homeland after years of political persecution. Oromos have a unique social culture that makes it easy to build relationships. Their communities, though divided religiously, are well connected with family and friends in the US and Ethiopia. We’re encouraged to see emerging Oromo leaders and churches throughout the US. Pray with us as we invite believers to be the face, hands and heart of Jesus leading Oromos into a relationship with God. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT TELILE BADECHA (TBADECHA@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
MIDDLE EAST Persecution and martyrdom are not new to the Egyptian Orthodox church, but the pain and loss of recent attacks by ISIS is severe. Despite many obstacles, unity among Egyptian Christians has never been stronger. Thousands recently gathered for a prayer conference, asking God to confront the evil forces at work in this part of the world. Pray for Egyptian believers as they continue to battle radical Islam with their prayers and love and for our partners who have come alongside to support them. A Texas church with which we’re connected recently raised $17,000 for printing and distribution of newly translated Farsi language Bibles in Iran. This same church also invested in the training of new underground church leaders—members of the fastest-growing underground church in the world. Iran’s multiple networks of churches know little about each other by design, but they comprise nearly four million members. We’re grateful for the relationships we have with Christian leaders in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE is trying to emerge as a leading voice for moderate Islam in the Middle East and counter conservative/extremist influences. Pray that Christians in the UAE continue to make significant inroads with moderate Muslims who are discovering they have far more in common with Christians than with the militants/fundamentalists of their own faith. Several of our staff members are taking a group of American church leaders to London and the Arabian Peninsula this fall to further strengthen the partnerships we enjoy in these regions. TO LEARN MORE, VISIT FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM OR CONTACT INFO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM.
SOUTH ASIA // INDIA
Nearly half of the world’s unreached people groups live in India. Our partnerships with ministries there allow us to see great need as well as the exciting growth of the church. One of our partners just mobilized 50,000 believers to contact 9,000 villages along the Ganges River. Over a third of those villages have asked for further contact from ministry leaders. We’re also connecting with a group of former imams who are now following Jesus and want to share the Good News with others. Another partner has expanded ministry into Nepal, home to one of the fastestgrowing churches in the world. At the 2016 Finishing the Task conference, we made a commitment to help reach four new unengaged, unreached people groups in northeastern India. Pray for the workers who are ready to take the Good News there for the first time. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT CODY WATSON (CWATSON@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
// PAKISTAN We’ve been partnering for the last six years with a Pakistani Christian educator who runs three primary schools. Associate Director Haemin Lee hopes to visit this fall to learn firsthand how God is at work and meet with representatives of several organizations in the region. In order to interview for a Pakistan tourist visa, he needs to travel first to South Korea and apply there. Pray that his visa will be processed without any problems and for wisdom and safety as he travels. TO LEARN MORE, CONTACT HAEMIN LEE (HLEE@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM).
HELP SEND THE GOOD NEWS TO THE UNREACHED IN INDIA 7132 PORTLAND AVENUE SUITE 136 RICHFIELD, MN 55423â€“3264 FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM INFO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM 612.869.0062
Inviting believing communities to engage people groups where the Good News of Jesus and His Kingdom is not yet known
THERE ARE 1,510 PEOPLE GROUPS THAT CURRENTLY HAVE NO CONTACT WITH FOLLOWERS OF JESUS. WE HAVE NEW TEAMS IN INDIA READY TO GO TO FOUR OF THESE GROUPS AS SOON AS FUNDING IS AVAILABLE. $7,500 SUPPORTS ANNUAL MINISTRY + LIVING EXPENSES FOR TWO CHURCH PLANTERS + THEIR FAMILIES. GIVE ONLINE TO THE FINISHING THE TASK / INDIA PROJECT: FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM/ GIVE
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Quarterly magazine with news and stories from the ministry of Frontier Fellowship