Heroes in mission: William Carey

William CareyWilliam Carey was a poor Northamptonshire shoemaker who is better known today as the ‘father of modern missions’.  Despite his humble origins he was an intelligent though uneducated man, who taught himself several languages, acquired skills as a craftsman, and became a schoolmaster and a Baptist minister by the time he was 25.

His studies lead to him becoming convinced that the mandate to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:20) was binding not merely on the original 11 but on all subsequent disciples of Jesus.  In support of this argument he published in 1792 his influential essay An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, a powerful apologetic which challenged the received wisdom that God was perfectly capable of saving unbelievers without the help of his followers.  This discussion led to the foundation of a mission society which later became BMS World Mission.

Despite his bad health, low social standing, and rejection by the British authorities in Calcutta which forced him to move inland to live and work in a Danish colony, he was a determined plodder who achieved a great deal simply by working hard and keeping going.  Yet he was also a man of faith, and his maxim “Expect great things from God.  Attempt great things for God.” continues to be popular.

Many of the attitudes and values pioneered in the mission field by Carey have formed the bedrock of missionary practice over the last two centuries, such as:

  • Campaigning against cultural practices that harm people such as the caste system, suttee and child sacrifice;
  • Establishing educational establishments to help people out of poverty;
  • Language and culture acquisition as a means to sharing the gospel in a relevant way;
  • Bible translation and printing as a means of propagating the word of God;
  • Promoting agricultural development to improve people’s quality of life.

However, one practice of Carey’s which has remained largely unemulated by subsequent generations of mission workers is his willingness to support himself financially.  Carey worked for a living, earning money from planting indigo while also translating the Bible into a number of Asian languages for the first time.  The practice of mission workers taking employment to support themselves is only recently taking off again.

Hard-working and modest, one of Carey’s actions towards the end of his life indicates the quality of his character.  When disputes within the mission he had founded proved to be irreconcilable, rather than become dictatorial and contend with those who disagreed with him, he walked away, leaving the mission and continuing his work independently.

Among his great legacy to the world of missions, one that stands out is the words that he and some friends wrote together in the founding statement of their mission society.  They echo his wholehearted service for God and stand as a challenge to the values of mission workers to this day:

 “Let us give unreservedly to this glorious cause.  Let us never think that our time, or gifts, our strength, our families or even the clothes we wear are our own.”

World Watch List shows persecution on the rise

WWL

Last week Open Doors published its influential World Watch List, in which it rates countries according to the degree of religious persecution.  Many of these come as no surprise, as once again North Korea tops the list.  But the news which gives most cause for concern is that the frequency and severity of persecution is clearly increasing.  For example, in 2013 the 50th country on the list scored 35 points.  This year, the 50th country had 53 points.  And frequently the reason that some countries are dropping down the list is not that conditions there are getting better, but that persecution is growing even faster in other countries.

This reminds us that despite what we might feel in the relatively secure West, the world as a whole is not a safe place to be a Christian.  The ongoing threat from global terrorism, dictatorial nationalism and religious extremism not only from ISIS and Boko Haram but also in, for example, India, reminds us that the unprecedented levels of comfort and safety that the West experiences is not shared either by the global church or the historical church.  For much of the church’s history, persecution has been the norm.

Persecution has even been seen as evidence that our faith is genuine – the world hates us because it hated our Lord (John 15:18-21).  In this passage Jesus said that the reason people persecute Christians is that they do not know the One who sent him.  Our response therefore, as well as supporting the oppressed and campaigning to protect them, should also be to strive to make sure that the persecutors really do get to know the One who sent Jesus.

You can read a summary of the report, order your copy of the World Watch List and find out how to pray for persecuted Christians by clicking here.  And remember:

There isn’t a persecuted church and a free church –

there is one church.

Sowing what you did not reap

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Planting out rice seedlings in Cambodia

I am sending you to harvest in fields where others have done all the hard work for you. (John 4:38)

Sometimes we hear stories of miraculous revivals which seem to have no preparatory work involved.  They just seem to spring out of nowhere.  Historically we might think of the Welsh revival, or the Karen turning to Christ in response to Adoniram Judson’s preaching, or the arrival of Christianity in Korea following the death of Robert Thomas.  They’re not just historical though, and such revivals continue to happen today, for example in parts of Latin America, India and Africa.  Even south Wales.  People who reap such harvests are often praised, as if somehow they’ve done something innovative or creative to make revival happen.  These blessed few get to speak at conferences, publish books, and tell their story over and over again to admiring churches.  They attract followers, their organisation grows, and they’re able to achieve more and more.  They become CEOs.

At the same time, there are probably many thousands of mission workers globally who are struggling hard yet reaping very little.  Their churches may not be growing, their projects not entirely effective.  They are plagued with self-doubt, yet continually strive harder in order to achieve more.  Or they may be under pressure from sending churches or support partners.  ‘What are you doing out there?’  ‘Is it really effective?’  ‘Are you sure you’re not wasting your time (translation: our money)?’  You’re probably one of them.   Working hard, sowing seed from which there is no obvious harvest.  Such mission workers are often at risk of burnout, leaving their ministry early, and possibly even beginning to have doubts in their faith.  Yet their hard work may be planting the seed which others will harvest a generation later.

Image source: www.sxc.hu

Image source: www.sxc.hu

This apparent injustice will be familiar to many of us.  It’s also Biblical.  Jonah, despite his initial reluctance, was the Bible’s most successful mission worker.  In just one day of ministry an entire megacity repented (Jonah 3:4-5).  By the grace of God (Jonah complained), and not because of Jonah’s oratory.  Philip saw revival in Samaria (Acts 8:4-13), and Peter saw a small revival break out spontaneously in Caesarea when he went to visit a centurion (Acts 10:44-48).  Yet Paul, at one stage of his ministry, wandered around for weeks looking for the right place (Acts 16:6-8).  He was ineffective in Athens (Acts 17:32-34).  And most of the Old Testament prophets had nothing but jeering and opposition to their ministries.

If we could bottle ministry success it would be a best seller.  But we can’t.  Most of us have absolutely no idea why our ministry thrives, or doesn’t.  But what is probably true is that it has less to do with our strategy, or effort and our resourcing than it does on the grace of God.  When God chooses to move sovereignly to bring revival, it will not be because one pastor has a good idea.  It will be because God chooses to bless a particular church, town or people group.  At the moment we are seeing incredible revival among Iranians.  It has little to do with the church’s outreach.  It’s just because that suits God’s purpose.

It can be easy for us to let success go to our heads, or to allow failure to discourage us.  But recognition that it is God’s decision where revival breaks out relieves the pressure on us and allows us to do two things.  The first is to pray.  If God is on the move, the best strategy is to find out what’s on God’s heart and ask if we can join in.  Sometimes God will say yes, in which there’s no credit to us when it goes well.  If God wants us to work somewhere else, that is God’s decision and the result does not reflect badly on us either.

The second is to embrace humility, whether we have the outward trappings of ‘success’ or ‘failure’.  If it’s in God’s hands, it’s not in ours, so we can deserve neither blame nor credit.  And we should remember that the Bible does not call us to be successful – it calls us to be faithful and fruitful.  Faithful in serving God wherever we are called, and fruitful in the process of doing that.  The fruit we bear may be numerical, or in the maturity of our church, but it may also be in the personal character growth that comes with perseverance when we appear to be unsuccessful.  To serve where God wants, and to serve how God wants, is the ultimate in faithfulness and fruitfulness.  We can only be responsible for ourselves.  And leave the results in God’s hands.

Update from Asia

Inside the bathroom at Frishta Children's Village

When people ask me if I have children, there’s usually a vague impression of sympathy which crosses their face as they hear my answer – I’m not married and I have no children. You can see they want to say something like ‘Never mind, I’m sure God has someone special for you’ but are not sure how appropriate and affirming that really is. Instead they quickly change the subject.  So it was a pleasant relief to meet two Indians whose response was immediately: ‘That’s great! You have more time for your ministry.’

The Indians I met on my brief journey to Punjab seemed very focussed and hard-working. Perhaps their dedication comes from the price they have paid to follow Jesus. I heard several stories about people who had been thrown out of their families when they became Christians. It made me wonder how we in the West would have coped with that. For them, Christ is everything. Literally. They have nothing else.

Frishta Children’s Village in Chandigarh is an ambitious project building brand new homes for orphaned or rejected children to be housed in. I was impressed by the quality of their work, and their commitment to ensuring high quality care and living standards for their children. You can read more about their work at www.frishta.org.uk.  Their strapline Till They All Have Homes… says it all.

After two days in India I moved on to Singapore where I stayed at the International Headquarters of OMF.  It was good catching up with old friends and meeting some OMF workers for the first time and hearing of their work.  The recently refurbished premises are over the road from the Botanical Gardens, a beautifully-maintained large park area.  On Sunday morning, having attended the church service at St John’s & St Margaret’s on Saturday evening, I decided that I would spend time in the park with God.  I was not disappointed.    It was a very refreshing time, apart from the drama of watching a komodo dragon eating a turtle.

In the Botanical Gardens there is a large National Orchid Collection, where they breed, show and maintain a huge variety of these beautiful flowers.  In the VIP collection they show orchids named after celebrities and dignitaries whom they have invited to visit. Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana were honoured, so was Andrea Bocelli.  I thought it was rather insensitive of them to invite him to visit an orchid collection.

Then I moved on to Chiang Mai, where I took part in the first ever Global Member Care Conference (organised by the Global Member Care Network), along with colleagues representing numerous organisations from all over the world. It was particularly encouraging to see so many representatives from newer sending nations, and not just the usual Westerners. The teaching was excellent and there were good opportunities to get to know others working in the same sector. There are some major possibilities in this for Syzygy, which I won’t announce yet in case they don’t come to fruition, but please pray that some significant developments would come about.

Then, having spent a night at the lovely Christian guest home The Juniper Tree, I travelled by bus and car across Thailand to Lopburi where OMF has its Language and Orientation Centre for Thailand, and I caught up with friends and former colleagues, enjoying visiting the projects they are working on.

Tomorrow I’ll be flying to Cambodia to stay with friends there, and hopefully meet up with more people who I can help, and then I have another day in Bangkok visiting Urban Neighbours of Hope before I return home.

Please continue to pray for safe travelling, good meetings with friends, opportunities to consult with other agencies, time to provide healing prayer and discussion with those who need it, and for God to use me for his glory.

Syzygy’s grand tour of Asia

Today sees the start of Syzygy’s first ever multi-national mission support trip, taking in 4 countries in as many weeks.  As this blog is published Tim is already in the air en route to India, where he will visit the Studley family Frishta Children’s Village, which aims to combat homelessness among India’s many millions of orphans.  From there Tim will travel to Singapore, where he will meet up with old friends, including some who work with OMF, and then on to Thailand where he will be part of the Global Member Care Conference (Member Care is what those engaged in pastoral support for mission workers call their role).

While there he will meet with Janene from Eagles Rest, and then visit two projects, The Well and The Juniper Tree, both of which provide pastoral support and counselling for mission workers, before visiting friends in another part of Thailand.  Tim will then continue to Cambodia where he will spend time with mission workers before returning to Bangkok to visit Urban Neighbours of Hope and then fly home – hopefully not too exhausted.

This is not just a good excuse for a Christian holiday, despite the alluring locations.  While providing pastoral support to all the mission workers he will meet, Tim is also seeking out other unsupported mission workers who may need Syzygy’s services.  The Member Care conference will provide unparalleled networking opportunities, and meetings with other agencies may well result in future collaboration.

Please pray daily for Tim while he is travelling.  Obviously there are the usual possibilities of getting ill and missing flights, as well as some minor security risks common to such journeys.  Additionally it will be tiring meeting so many people and possibly becoming involved in some fairly in-depth discussions.

Please pray that:

  • he will be able to help and encourage mission workers
  • he will meet with new mission workers to support
  • the conference in Thailand will yield good results
  • God’s hand will guide Tim in whatever situation he finds himself

We will provide brief updates here as and when time and internet access allow!

Dates:

April
16th – Fly to India
19th – Fly to Singapore
22nd – Fly to Chiang Mai
23rd – Global Member Care Conference
27th – Day of resting at the Juniper Tree
28th – By road to Lopburi, Thailand

May
1st – Fly from Bankok to Phnom Penh
8th – Return to Bangkok
9th – Fly to UK
10th – Get home

Story of the month – business as usual in India

This month I thought you’d like to read this very ordinary and down to earth progress report from an evangelist in India.  He doesn’t waste time embellishing it, he just tells it like it is:

REPORT FOR JANUARY – JUNE 2010

1. How many new House Churches were planted?   109

2. Training Seminars – how many? 33

How many participants? 1132

3. How many Baptisms:  2639


Little Stories:

  • Sister Y accepted the Lord last year and has been reunited with her husband after 7 years of separation.
  • BS’s young daughter who suffered from chronic asthma was healed as God’s people prayed for her in April 2010 at a Conference.
  • HS wept with joy as he was given 60 Bibles for distribution in his House Churches. He reports that Children in his House Churches are reading Stories from the Bible to their illiterate Parents and Grand Parents.
  • M who suffered a stroke and could not walk was healed as God’s people prayed. Today one can hardly tell if she had a stroke at all.

GOALS FOR JULY – DECEMBER 2010

(1) New Believers: 8000

(2) Baptisms: 8000

(3) New House Churches : 800

Please pray for the safety of this dynamic man as he ministers.

Pray for those who hear his message, and for the safety of those who respond.

Pray that others would be inspired to spread the gospel.

Pray that he’ll exceed his target for the current six months!

Nehemiah Ministries

Staff and students at the NM home in Sivaganga

Orphaned of both parents as a young boy, Chinnarai lived with his widowed aunty, who struggled to take care of him, let alone send him to school.  She asked for help from a boys’ hostel run by Nehemiah Ministries in Sivangangai.  It has been three years since he joined the hostel. He is a sincere and hard working boy, the first to successfully complete his government exam last year.  He has dreams of becoming a doctor and his standard 12 exam next year will be crucial in choosing for him a future career.

Nehemiah Ministries (NM) is a Christian charity aiming to take the love of Jesus to India, particularly to the poor and neglected.  It is led by Jayakumar, who gave up his job as technology teacher at Hebron School to set up NM.  They now operate in several states of India and have extensive church support and aid operations.  This growth has not come easily – there has been much opposition and in some areas churches supported by NM saw their buildings burnt down.  Even the hostel in Sivangangai experienced a lot of hostility at first, but has gradually been accepted as the value of the work there is recognised.  A recent government inspection praised the hostel and recommended its expansion.

The NM centre in Nagapattinam

Much of NM’s work is with the dalits, who are the ones who suffer the most poverty and neglect.  One such boy is Rajamurthy.  He is a class 10 student and a Sunday school student from the time he was touched by the gospel. His father is a habitual drinker and his mother steeped in worship of the Hindu gods. Life was always miserable for Raja, who still has to witness his father’s daily verbal and physical abuse of his mother. His only source of comfort is the word of God, the church and the pastor’s family who reached out to him and visit him regularly in his village. It was through consistent prayer and witness that he was touched by the power of the gospel. His great desire in life is to see peace descending on his family. He has been fervently praying for the conversion of his family.

  • Please pray for the work of Nehemiah Ministries, and for its Indian staff, who carry out their ministry under much difficulty and danger.
  • Pray for the dalits, who suffer so much but among whom the gospel has spread rapidly in recent years.
  • Pray for other Indians, who often erroneously look down on Christianity as a dalit religion, and fear loss of status and respect if they become Christians.

You can find out more about NM’s work at their website www.nehemiah.org.uk