Smiling faces huddled around a catchy motto. The image above looks more like a family photo at Thanksgiving than four disciples who have just been kicked out of the country they served on the mission for several years. Over the last two months, six brothers and sisters from one OYC site have faced trials and opposition that would send many toward despair. As you can see, smiling faces persist. We are thankful to have brothers and sisters who have responded with great faith and resilience during this time. We hope you will be encouraged by their stories. The first of the six to be kicked out was a brother originally from Los Angeles, California. He was stopped and questioned while attempting to re-enter the country; little information was provided. At the end of the day, his travel documents were cancelled and he was in a new region with only the things in his backpack. His wife, child, home and mission field were all just a few miles and a border away. Almost a full month later, after his wife sold and gave away most of their possessions, she packed up the essentials from their home and joined him, knowing she would likely not be allowed to cross back again either. This couple faced this type of trial previously. At the beginning of 2019, they lost their jobs and home due to sharing their faith. After living with family in the USA, they reapplied for visas and jobs and were granted re-entry. In order to keep others safe, because they are “marked” by the government, these two helped to lead a small church plant to a new city that had less emphasis on restricting religious groups. A little more than half a year (and a newborn baby) later they face this challenge again, yet this time in a more permanent way. Another brother, pictured below (in the “hope” sweatshirt), was kicked out after more than eight years of service in the mission. He was not even allowed to enter through customs, but was instead put back on a plane and sent out of the country for another 16 hour flight, after already flying for 20 hours. This brother stayed over 20 days in hotels before finding an apartment for himself and his family. They reunited after nearly a month apart. Willing to try and try again, these disciples have responded with bravery in a time that has been dark and discouraging. All six served as church leaders during their years (some up to 11 years) at their OYC site. Amidst all the personal challenges that come up with such an upheaval, these scattered disciples have focused on supporting and encouraging the disciples back at the church. Their ministry has moved online for the time being, organizing prayer calls and staff meetings and providing resources like sermon notes and recordings for those who have found themselves in new positions of leadership back at the site. Four of these disciples rented an apartment together as close as possible to the city of church they led. This photo below (left) captures the moment all four finally reunited. Because they all exited at different times, it was especially joyful for families to be together again after weeks of separation! As Paul and Barnabas strengthened and encouraged the believers with these words, so we may echo them: “
We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God..” – Acts 14:22 The message they send to the church is not to shrink back or just try to hold on for survival. Can you recall the response of the early church when they faced severe persecution? After persecution broke out in Jerusalem following the stoning of Stephen, the Christian movement wasn’t stopped or even slowed, it spread! ”
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” – Acts 8:4
This newsletter is in no way an announcement that this OYC site is too restricted or too challenging; it is a call for more to step up and rise to the challenge to make Christ’s name known.
Who will come as reinforcements to advance the gospel on this mission field and others in great need?
Local disciples at the same OYC site gather to celebrate the start of the Lunar New Year. Many of these disciples are the direct or indirect fruit of those who took the OYC. During the banquet, the church had the opportunity to recognize and pray for a mission team that was to be sent out shortly after; their first mission team of all local disciples!
New Content on the One Year Challenge Blog:
Featured Article: The gods of the Prosperity Gospel. What’s behind this movement and church culture that exists in more places than just mega churches with celebrity pastors? This article shares a perspective from Cameroon and the battle to present the true gospel message to Great Images: The Twelve Tribes. How well do you know your OT? Well, how about the geography behind it? Thursday Links: Battling Guilt and Shame. Some great resource to have more tools and support again these. Remember, Jesus prayed for those who would believe in him to have joy! What We’re Reading Today. From Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Cost of Discipleship”; ” The road to faith passes through obedience to the call of Jesus. Unless a definite step is demanded, the call vanishes into thin air, and if men imagine that they can follow Jesus without taking this step, they are deluding themselves like fanatics.”