Connecting Compassion + Church Planting
I grew up in a large adoptive family; my parents adopted 18 of their 21 children. These were children no one else wanted. Many of them were alcohol/ drug exposed, physically/sexually abused, neglected or physically disabled. My unique family greatly influenced me.
In 2006, as a student at Spring Arbor University, I participated in a VISA trip to Asia. This trip was my first exposure to Asia, but I knew I would someday be serving in Asia long-term. During my days at Spring Arbor, I also learned about the 46 million slaves in the world today, and I felt directed by the Lord to develop an organization that establishes safe homes for children at high risk of being trafficked. I founded In Better Hands (IBH) in 2012.
My wife, Hlawn Hlawn, and I have a passion for helping children know Jesus Christ. This passion in connection with the influence of my family, the problem of human trafficking, and our call as missionaries to Asia created a partnership between IBH and the global Free Methodist Church (FMC). Whenever IBH begins a new safe home in Asia, we work in partnership with the local FMC. We lease a house large enough for up to ten children and ensure the living room area is large enough for a FMC plant. Often the church planter is also the IBH house parent.
Throughout the past year, IBH and the FMC of Cambodia have been working diligently together to plant a FMC in a remote village outside of Phnom Penh. No other organization or church denomination has been working in this village of 30 families. The living conditions are deplorable. Through IBH sponsorship, the children in this village are being fed, educated, immunized and kept safe from traffickers. Working together with Superintendent Daniel Sar, the Cambodian FMC has assigned a church planter to this village. The pastor visits the community frequently and holds services for the entire village to attend. We are currently in the process of constructing a modest church building.
Because of the strong partnership between IBH and the Cambodian FMC, children and adults are physically and spiritually fed!
In Better Hands now partners with the church in Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia and has a total of 10 safe houses. In addition to the safe houses and the “Hope for the Village” projects in Cambodia and Myanmar, we also assist eight widows in Myanmar who would otherwise struggle to survive (James 1:27). For more information visit www.inbetterhands.org.
By Seth Van Tifflin
“They are so pushy, aloof and rude!” That was the conversation among some of the church members as we prepared for our weekly food pantry. The “they” of the conversation was the ubiquitous older Chinese who showed up at the food pantry weekly. These were not the ABC’s (American Born Chinese) who understand our ways and conduct themselves in a manner that is palatable to our sensibilities. In fact, there was even a report on the local news that they were reselling the food we gave them!
I had a solution: from now on, if they wanted to receive anything from our church, they had to prove they belonged in our community! As we were once again preparing to show the love of Jesus to our neighbors, I instructed our staff that they must show identification. So, with our new signs, “NO ID-NO FOOD!” prominently displayed, we began to be the hands of Jesus. One of the young men I was discipling on cross-cultural compassionate urban ministry saw the signs and said, “Pastor Curtis, this is not who we are.” His words convicted me. How did I get here? I have been a proponent of God’s love for all people; why did these folks drive me to such an unloving posture?
I sought the Lord and repented. I made up my mind that no matter what they did with the food, we were going to show them unconditional love and courtesy. After that, the strangest thing happened; they reciprocated! Not only that but for the first time they began to come to our worship service! God said, “Start a church.” Since none of us spoke Mandarin, we reached out to a Chinese seminary for help. They graciously sent a team of students to work with us. One of the team members was Thomas Feng [Fong].
Thomas is a determined fellow. Out of the group of volunteers that came on Saturdays, he alone endured. It is one thing to go into this strange and often dangerous environment on a class assignment, but to embrace it – well that is a God thing. Even after graduation, Thomas continued to come. Others expressed interest in the ministry, but when they saw the demographic, they soon faded away. Thomas is now a Conference Ministerial Candidate (CMC) in the Sierra Pacific Conference of the FMCUSA, and has planted Bay Community Chinese Fellowship, in Oakland, CA. Please pray for Thomas Feng and this fellowship of Chinese believers.
By Curtis Fleming
World Missions Prayer Calendar: October
01 MONDAY| Philippines
Pray for the Free Life ministry in the Philippines as every local church reaches out to high school and university students. Pray for mobilization and empowerment of the young people in the Philippines to share the gospel.
02 TUESDAY |Creative Access – I
Pray for a spirit of wisdom and discernment to guide Hany in choosing and developing new leaders and church planters. Pray for his protection from spiritual warfare that is fierce in this region.
03 WEDNESDAY | The D.R. of Congo
Nundu Hospital is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Dr. Lwabanya Marx has been named Medical Director of Nundu Hospital. He and his wife Christine will be moving from Bujumbura, Burundi to Nundu. Pray for Dr. Lwabanya and the staff at Nundu during this time of transition.
04 THURSDAY | France
France: Pray for the growth and development of new leaders and the spiritual development and growth of the many children and youth in the church.
05 FRIDAY | Argentina
Pastor Ricardo Guerrero leads this growing mission district. Pray for safety as he travels to help oversee three clusters of churches 1000 miles apart, including neighboring Uruguay. Also, pray for the training and development of 22 current ministerial candidates and a growing number of young leaders.
06 SATURDAY | Ethiopia
Pray for Superintendent Mekebib Desta as he works together with conference leadership to train leaders to plant churches. This training includes an oral Bible school for those who are not literate.
07 SUNDAY | Greece
Pray for freedom from religious and cultural prejudices that would inhibit the demonstration of the love of Christ and the message of the gospel to various people groups now in this region.
08 MONDAY | Bolivia
The Chilean Free Methodist Church continues to develop the work in Bolivia under the leadership of Area Director Dr. Delia Nüesch-Olver. Pray for the strengthening and maturity of the church in Bolivia and for a growing awareness of the need and ability of the Bolivian leaders to develop the church.
09 TUESDAY | Asia
Asia: In addition to his role providing pastoral care and support to Free Methodist missionaries in Asia, Mark leads Shepherd Ministries which is reaching out to university students. Pray for God’s guidance in his responsibilities with Shepherd Ministries and effectiveness in communicating with university students.
Birthday: Mark Morrison
10 WEDNESDAY| SEED
Pray for continued prayer and financial support for SEED as the staff plans for ways to deepen connections and help livelihood groups in 2018-2019 and beyond.
11 THURSDAY | Creative Access – C
Tammy and her family have faced many stresses in recent months. Pray for the Lord to provide wisdom, strength, and encouragement as they navigate these stresses and maintain effective ministry.
12 FRIDAY |Ghana
The Ghana Mission District is under the oversight of the Free Methodist Church in Canada. There is a growing fellowship of new churches with ongoing ministerial training and organizational development. Pray for Pastor Ahmed Kenneth Quarshie as he gives leadership and partners with the West African Fellowship through FMWM.
13 SATURDAY | Spain
Pastor Vito and Mari Suarez lead the Lanzarote congregation which has a dynamic outreach to children. Pray that children and their families will understand and know Jesus and Christian homes will be established.
14 SUNDAY | Peru
The FM ministry in Peru has spread through three regions – jungle, mountains, and coast. Pray for District Leader Miguel Algorta, who regularly travels six hours through the mountains to a church plant in the capital city of Lima. Pray for the multiplication of churches in Lima.
15 MONDAY| Middle East
Pray for the development of discipleship and training materials in Arabic, which are in short supply.
16 TUESDAY | Creative Access- Asia
Pray for God to continue to open doors of opportunity for the gospel, and for the power of the Holy Spirit to radically change hearts and minds in an area that is full of political tensions and spiritual poverty.
17 WEDNESDAY | Creative Access – I
Linda teaches English and basic math skills to refugee children in this area. Pray for the children to develop needed skills and for the Holy Spirit to provide emotional and spiritual healing for them.
18 THURSDAY| Cameroon
Pray for our brothers and sisters in Cameroon, particularly around Dependa, who have been in challenging living circumstances. Many people, including some Free Methodist members and one of our churches, have lost homes and property due to local, armed conflicts. Having fled to the forest, some are living in camping like conditions. Food and basic supplies are hard to find.
19 FRIDAY | Portugal
Only about one percent of the population in Portugal is Evangelical Christian. Idolatry, witchcraft, and magic are prevalent, and much of the nation is resistant to the gospel. Pray for the powers of evil to be destroyed and for the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome people’s hearts and minds.
20 SATURDAY | Asia
Pray for Becca as she teaches and for the students who are studying at Holy Light Theological Seminary this semester. Also, pray for the power of the Lord to do a great work of redemption during small group evangelistic meetings.
21 SUNDAY| Mexico
Mexico City is the largest urban area in the Western hemisphere. Pray for churches to be planted and multiply in this city.
22 MONDAY | Creative Access – C
Pray for Jessica as she leads Bible study groups in her community and balances this ministry with homeschooling her teenage daughter.
23 TUESDAY | Set Free
Pray for the team of Cambodian and Southeast Asian leaders as they strategize on how to incorporate anti-trafficking education into existing ICCM programs.
24 WEDNESDAY | Myanmar
There are approximately 63,000 villages in Myanmar. Only 3000 of those villages have a church. Pray for Pastor Pakep and other leaders in this country as they seek to plant churches, love the poor, take care of widows and orphans, and educate and train young leaders.
25 THURSDAY | Global
Pray for the Global Advisory Team (Area Directors, Director of Global Church Advocacy and Bishops) which meets in Chiang Mai, Thailand this week. Ask the Lord to give them wisdom, discernment, and power from the Holy Spirit as they work together on strategies to reach the world for Christ.
26 FRIDAY | Middle East
Pray for informal networks of friends, families, and acquaintances that cross national and cultural boundaries to continue to grow and be an avenue for the gospel to spread in this region.
Birthday: Sherrill Yardy
27 SATURDAY | Belgium
Belgium: Pray for the Oostende congregation and their outreach among Latinos and youth. Also, pray for Bible studies being held in parts of West Flanders.
28 SUNDAY | Kenya
Pray for Sherry Cahill to have increased opportunities to reach out to women across Kenya. Also, pray for continued daily strength to meet the demands of travel and ministry.
Birthday: Sherry Cahill
29 MONDAY |Colombia
Pray for Medellín Center for Family Development, an after-school program that helps get at-risk children off the streets and provides spiritual, academic and recreational support to counteract the destructive culture in which they live.
30 TUESDAY | Middle East
Refugees are finding hope and a source of income through a microenterprise project that began by using tiles from their destroyed villages to construct small mosaic plaques. Today the project has expanded to include bookmarks, jewelry, beadwork, soaps, and other products. Pray for this project to prosper and result in many coming to faith in Christ.
31 WEDNESDAY |Asia
Pray for wisdom and discernment for Judi as she works in partnership with her husband Mark in supporting our missionary team in Asia and invests in their family, including their eight grandchildren. Birthday: Judi Morrison