Give Thanks

By Matthew Pitts

New Workers in the Harvest Field

When Christ instructs us to pray for something, it should take special priority in our prayers. We are called to be obedient to our God, as His people, in all things. However, more than being a command, it is an encouragement. This is a prayer to which God’s answer will be a resounding ‘Yes!’ To give another example, it would be ludicrous to think that the Lord will not answer the prayer that Christ taught His disciples to pray, ‘on Earth as it is in Heaven’ (Mt. 6:10). Exactly what this will look like may be debated but not whether it will happen!

In 2023, we at Echoes International once again saw the Lord answer, ‘Yes.’ Across the year, we saw 11 new, long-term mission partners listed on our Daily Prayer Guide (DPG). Another 11, who were in the preparation phase at the close of the year, will complete the process in 2024 and this number is growing. It is also encouraging to see new mission partners going into the field through partnerships with other agencies, NGOs and charity projects. They may be engaging through a digital approach or working with, and often under, indigenous leadership in their fields of service – all of which the Lord has laid upon our hearts.

 

Loving the Lost

Jonathan and Lynsey McKinnon were the first couple to be added to the Daily Prayer Guide in 2023. Having explored the Lord’s call to Moshi Christian Children’s Centre (MCCC) in Tanzania as short-term mission partners, Jonathan and Lynsey felt that they should remain for the long term – no small commitment with a family of four children in tow.

Over the last five decades, the ministry at MCCC has continued to serve children in crisis, often those who would be considered of little value in society. In desperate need of love, a safe home and education, they come to the centre and are welcomed as Christ welcomed children in His ministry. The goal of MCCC is to welcome them with the open arms of God’s love and offer protection for those who need it. At Moshi, children are taught daily about the hope offered in the Bible and of God’s great rescue plan in Jesus. While at the centre, the McKinnons have also helped provide an experience of cross-cultural mission to several FirstServe participants, who may go on to become mission partners themselves. We are pleased to partner with the McKinnons as they work alongside a local team and show love to children who would likely be cast aside without the centre.

 

Serving the Least-reached

Another significant encouragement is that the majority of our new mission partners are serving in regions where the workers are few. Globally, 42% of the world’s people groups are unreached, the majority being in countries that are actively, often legislatively, closed to the gospel.1 Being a Christian may be allowed while attempting to convert people is prohibited. In these areas, a traditional model of mission is unsuitable. However, Christians can serve there as relief workers, lecturers, sports coaches and the like.

Readers may have noticed the addition of Blair and Eleanor* to the Daily Prayer Guide last April. They serve in a Muslim-majority country in Southeast Asia. They are known by their local community as Christians; they make no effort to hide this and their genuine occupations are sports coaching and teaching. Their football coaching project has grown over 15 years to span the whole country and engage thousands of young people. This, in turn, has resulted in hundreds of young people coming to faith in Christ. Blair, Eleanor and the other workers in this project have formed relationships, explained their own living faith and discipled believers.

Another example of this model of working is W and M who serve with a Christian hospital in the Middle East. Coming through Tilsley College, initially serving short term and now committing to long-term service, the Lord has provided them with roles that allow them to demonstrate the love of Christ in both word and deed. They too are seeing new believers coming to faith, being baptised and discipled.

 

They may be engaging through a digital approach or working with, and often under, indigenous leadership in their fields of service

 

Digital Access to the Word

In 2022, we thanked the Lord for the signing of a partnership agreement with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Their goal is to ensure that there is an accurate and accessible translation of God’s Word available to ‘every tribe’ in ‘every tongue.’ Beyond this, they train and mobilise believers in less-reached and less-accessible areas of the world to create their own translations, digital tools and websites that can be used to reach their own communities. John Ventress, whose background is in print and digital media at a major educational publisher, mobilised during 2023 through our partnership with Wycliffe. Based in the UK, he delivers training, both remotely and on location, to believers across Eurasia and the northern half of Africa, teaching them the rudiments of web design and maintenance so that they can utilise the web for Word ministry. This is a vital tool, particularly in those countries where the import or printing of physical Bibles may be banned or restricted.

Similarly, Sam and Mary Bouix serve with Global Recordings Network (GRN), an international organisation and partner of Wycliffe. Sam serves as the European Director but travels globally, supporting projects around the world in collating and producing audio recordings of Scripture and explanations of the gospel. With one barrier to the gospel being illiteracy, this work is incredibly valuable in ensuring that people across the globe can hear God speak to them through His Word in their own language.

 

Meeting Changing Needs

We were pleased to welcome Jon and Jo Lake back to our list, as they returned to serve in Zambia. As many readers will be aware, Zambia has been a recipient of Christian missions for approximately 140 years and is therefore at a different stage to many other unreached areas. Where previously the need was for pioneers, it is now for support and development of the local churches.

Along with the joy of many previously western ministries being handed over to local believers comes a challenge. While many Zambians have a good level of education and training, this is not necessarily the case for all local workers. Some have had fewer opportunities for learning. In some cases, the retirement of a mission partner can leave a project with a gap in expertise and practical knowledge.

To help fill some of these gaps, Mission Geeks was set up as a troubleshooting ministry. Jon and Jo serve with this team to engage with mission stations and hospitals to solve their logistical problems. This support enables them to continue working as platforms for gospel ministry and discipleship. Taking on everything from boreholes to buildings, the team seeks to empower and enable indigenous workers in maintaining and expanding the ministries they have inherited.

 

Keep Praying

Our hope is that you are encouraged by knowing that the Lord has continued to answer your prayers. While the task is still great and there remains a need for workers in many parts of the world, the Lord continues to call and send His people out from assemblies across the UK. Give thanks to the Lord of the harvest for answered prayers – and then continue to ask Him for more. These are prayers that He delights to answer!

*Names changed for protection

1. Joshua Project – An overview of the people groups of the world. People Groups: 17,314; Unreached Groups: 42.0%.

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