Seminary Faculty

South Asia / Theology / Church / 2+ years / Job ID: 235

An evangelical seminary trains students for ministry.

Faculty are needed at the graduate level (MDiv) for the following areas: Biblical Studies, Systematic Theology, Church History, Christian Ed, Counseling, Greek, and Hebrew. The qualified candidate will have a ThM or PhD/ThD.

Bible School Faculty

Pakistan / Theology / Church / 2+ years / Job ID: 240

Faculty are needed at the undergraduate level (B.Th.) for a bible school. The qualified candidate would have a M.Div.

Church Volunteer (various)

Arab World / Theology / Church / 1-11 months, 12-23 months, 2+ years / Job ID: 1513

The Church’s vision is to grow, to train people for ministry, to design new programs and activities for youth and children, to increase unity, to be a neighbourhood church that attracts the neighbours to its services, to increase social activities, and to minister to the refugees in the area.

There are many possibilities for this role: the church and neighbourhood have many needs but the need is for human resources. The church would like someone who is able to fulfill one or more of the following roles: Youth work, tutoring (French and English), music (for example to start a choir with the youth), teaching English to refugees, working with the elderly (the church has an old people’s home — nursing experience would be a bonus!), visiting refugees in the neighborhood and co-ordinating relief, writing grant proposals and administration to improve ministry in the neighborhood, medical ministry, beginning a theological/ministry training centre, manual work to maintain the church building.

The ideal person for this role is someone with entrepreneurial characteristics, willing to work independently but with a high degree of judgement and cultural sensitivity. No specific qualifications are required if you are able to carry out one of the listed roles. If candidate has no working Arabic, some Arabic study whilst in country is required.

Still needed and wanted

Imagine a country dominated by communist atheism for 70 years! For people to know God’s love, missionaries were certainly needed after the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. One elderly woman told me how, after growing up believing there was no God, it was wonderful to learn that there was a God who loved her. Her life and the lives of many others were transformed in those early days. With the help of the early missionaries to Central Asia, churches were established, local leaders put in place and initiatives begun to reach out to others with the news of God’s love in Jesus.

But more than 20 years later, are mission workers still needed in Central Asia? My local colleagues will answer a resounding “yes!” … if the workers are willing to work in partnership with local believers, supporting and strengthening them as they reach out to others and help people grow in faith and understanding.

I enjoy the great privilege of working with teachers in a theological college as we help students to understand the Bible and the Christian faith more deeply, so they can communicate well to others. Our teachers have only been Christians for 20 years or less. Therefore, they value partnership with others from the wider church with broader experience. They appreciate help with such things as understanding material, planning courses, finding helpful books, teaching and preaching.

A foreigner with wider knowledge often knows where to access financial and other resources. We’ve been able to access funds to computerise our library and, thanks to the assistance of a librarian friend from Australia, for our librarian to learn how to use the system. Outside assistance has allowed us to buy more books in the local languages and to translate some helpful commentaries.

When mentioning retirement in a few years’ time, I am met with responses such as “Where did that idea come from?”, “If you are going to leave us, you need to find someone else to come and help us!”, “We want you to work with more teachers to teach more subjects”, “You need to make sure we can do this or that before you leave!”

Of course, I’ve had a lot to learn over the years and I keep learning, not only the language but much more about life and relationships here. I’ve made mistakes and been helped by my local colleagues to understand how to do things better and differently. We have disagreements and patiently work things out together. I’m sometimes told that “We have a different mentality” and I try to see things from a different cultural point of view. And I’m humbled by the love and appreciation I receive.

Other Partners here are greatly valued as they serve alongside local people, showing the love of Jesus in their lives and work. They teach English or Korean or Mandarin, serve with a local team in a shelter for homeless people, do further training for medical personnel, set up businesses and NGOs which employ local workers, serve and support local church leaders, and teach in a school for international children so their parents can serve here. Such people are still needed and wanted, and opportunities abound.

I’ve never heard anyone here say, “We don’t need missionaries!” I have heard people speak negatively about missionaries who want to control, who try to “buy” them, who “just live here” and don’t do much, who “feed their dogs with meat we can’t afford to eat”, who try to impose another culture onto them. They want mission workers who will work with them, under them, alongside them, as they seek to bring the love of God to their own people.

Gwen is a Partner who has been working alongside the church in Central Asia for the past 14 years.
Names have been changed.

Contextualisation or syncretism?

In the hallowed halls of a Bible College, Janna had diligently prepared for a life of service amongst unreached people groups. Now she remembered wistfully the satisfaction of winning a prize for that essay about ‘contextualisation and syncretism’. It had all seemed so straightforward back then.

‘Contextualisation’ is the way elements of local culture are used to convey truths about God’s kingdom … and it is good. ‘Syncretism’ is the way elements of different religions or worldviews become amalgamated … and it is bad. But where does one draw the line between ‘contextualisation’ and ‘syncretism’?

Janna had put in years of language study, and had built up a business that provided her with a role in the community and a visa. She had shared her life and faith as naturally and clearly as she was able with those around her, but it had been a long, hard slog and acutely discouraging for many years. But times were changing.

Recently, God had showed himself quite clearly to those who had looked for him. Dreams and visions, healings and deliverances, miraculous provision of food and funds—it was incredible. And now two young people, Yeshe and Diki, were ready to publicly declare their faith through baptism.

Janna had prepared them well as they studied what the Bible teaches about baptism. Now all that remained was to work out the practical details: who would conduct the baptism, where would it take place and who would attend.

The young people wanted Janna, as their teacher, to baptise them. But she refused. She didn’t want baptism to be seen as turning to a foreign religion. Should she try to invite a believer from another area? He would speak a different dialect though. What about a big city church leader? But the emerging local church was intended to be indigenous to this people group. So she put that problem aside for the moment. Where would the baptism occur? That would be simpler.

Although it was summer, Yeshe and Diki were adamant that the river would be too cold. After all, the river was fed by glaciers. Briefly, Janna considered ‘dunking them’ in a bath … but there were no baths in this town. As every possibility was rejected, Janna realised that these new believers were terrified of going under water. She put that problem aside for the moment too. Who would the young believers like to invite to their baptism? Surely that would be simpler.

Quickly Yeshe and Diki listed a few of their friends from Bible study. “Good”, Janna replied, “but what about your families?” Janna had stayed with Yeshe’s family twice when they had invited her to celebrate New Year in their winter home up the valley. She had met Diki’s mother when she had come to town for medical appointments. Again, her ‘helpful’ suggestions were met with one block after another. “It was too far. It was summer and the family would be on the plateau with the yak. There was no point waiting until autumn because the family would be getting their winter homes sorted.” There were obviously deeper reasons for their reluctance to invite their families.

Frustrated, Janna decided that it was best to leave the practical issues of their baptism with Yeshe and Diki. She was confident the important points—the theological truths embodied in baptism—were clearly understood. It was their church that was at the brink of being birthed, and they must come up with their own contextualised way of conducting baptisms.

Two weeks later, the young people bounced into Janna’s apartment. They had a plan! Janna grinned. This is what it was all about—local people establishing Christian rites without foreign interference.

She sat down, leaned forward and listened.

First, they explained, they needed a Christian holy man. A pastor from the big city would do, but they worried that he’d insist on baptising them ‘big-city style’. A foreign holy man would be okay too. Best of all would be a holy man from their own people group. However, holy men were all Buddhists in this area. Perhaps Janna could connect them with a holy man. They were willing to travel far from home for the rite. They would actually prefer that because their families would be worried if they heard of them undergoing a non-Buddhist religious rite.

Next, they described how they would like to be baptised. If it was up to them, yak milk would be used for the ‘waters of baptism’, and it would be sprinkled. They had learned, as they researched the matter, that some churches would sprinkle new believers, especially if they were elderly or unwell. Sprinkling would suit them so much better. Yak milk would symbolise nurture and purity. Just as good Buddhists flick their drinks three times before consuming them, thus honouring the powers around them, so they hoped that a Christian holy man would flick yak milk over them three times in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Then the holy man would place a blessed white silk scarf around each of their necks and declare them Christians.

The young people beamed. Janna frowned. Distant memories of that prize-winning essay flitted through her mind. The concept of power being contained in certain people and things reflected their Buddhist mindset. Requiring a ‘holy man’ … adapting Buddhist practices of flicking drinks three times … giving blessed scarves. What was contextualisation and what was syncretism?

What should Janna do?

Janna’s story is true, although identifying details have been changed. Many workers have responded to this dilemma in different ways. Some encourage local believers to make the decisions themselves, encouraging them to find locally appropriate ways of expressing their faith. Others insist on what is seen as ‘foreign ways’, leaving no room for syncretism.

The point of this story isn’t to provide the ‘right answer’, but to ask you to pray for great wisdom for cross-cultural workers and new believers as they establish brand new churches in local contexts. What is the ‘right answer’? God alone knows.

The author is a researcher and language learner, serving people of Asia long term.
Names have been changed.

The Richter effect

Excited children spill into the dark street. Distracted briefly from the ever-present danger of this illegal celebration, more than 100 people are celebrating the saviour’s birth in this unassuming living room. Jammed together, perspiring, excited, these national friends exude the bonds of community and deeply forged friendships carved from the harshness of life in this province. I am included in their community, the one “family member” with no beautiful colour in my skin.

As always, I struggle to process the disparities: the disproportionate (in terms of effort) encouragement our visits bring to these people; the tumbling piles of expensive clothes and toys left behind by departing expats to be shared among my national friends. I struggle with questions such as, “What giveaway message is here for my friends?” “What legacy has been left by those beautiful expat families who have now gone?” This focus suddenly changes as I look at Adin’s face, an island of pain in the midst of this celebration.

Adin and Diwa represent to me all that is noble and good here. They have lived sacrificially for more than a decade here to help the people of this marginalised and repressed area. But, being nationals from another province, they are considered outsiders, mocked and discriminated against in employment and housing. Richly endowed with skills and caring hearts, Adin and Diwa teach organic gardening skills to their neighbours and friends. Luscious strawberries and healthy vegetables grow in these gardens, enough to help feed their own family as they face the daily challenge of finding enough food. Lately there has even been enough produce to sell a little, marginally easing the acuteness of financial stress that plagues such workers’ lives.

We too have lived in this province—harsh in climate and sanctions but so rich in glorious natural beauty. Memories of laughing faces and wet bodies still linger, reminders of our weekly retreat meetings with other expatriates. What also lingers is the knowledge that few similar intentional events had existed for the national workers. During our time in the province, changes were made to bring this encouragement to nationals in their own language and culture, but something more regular was urgently needed to “strengthen the arm” of these people.

The term “member care” is not new for some of us, but for our national friends it was a foreign concept. Sent out from their home areas, they had existed for so long in isolation without regular care that they didn’t understand when we asked, “What would make you feel encouraged?’” or “What can we do to support you?” So much for ethnographic surveys! What a golden opportunity for us to become a living example of the Father heart of God in caring for them.

Our international team members loved being tasked with initiating regular gatherings for national workers. Monthly gatherings began at beaches or in homes. Families met for socialisation, de-briefing and prayer. Adults met for weekly networking. They had never experienced such encouragement before on a regular basis. Workers travelled from other cities; weekly meetings started in other locations. The model of member care lived out in situ was having the Richter effect, cascading out like the earth tremors we frequently felt.

We now have a vision for a next step. Most expat workers have left the province and that lovely island retreat centre is no longer allowed to host such events. The love of Christ compels us to walk alongside our national friends to see the establishment in another location of a facility for gatherings, for rest and refreshment, for counsel and spiritual direction for the national workers who seek to bring light and hope to marginalised population groups.

Alice is a long-term Partner, walking alongside national workers in South East Asia.

Names have been changed.

Imitating God’s kindness

Each week our family has the privilege of supporting Khruu, a local Christian community leader, to reach out to children who live in the city’s largest slum by teaching them who Jesus is and what He has done. This ministry originated out of our own local Thai church. This slum community has numerous social problems ranging from substance abuse to domestic violence and neglect … and is spiritually oppressed. The reality for each child is that these problems are a natural and deep-rooted part of their surroundings. However, in spite of these challenges, God has enabled us to get to know these children well and to witness their growing desire to know Jesus.

Nong is a 10-year-old boy. His father has long since left and his mother is heavily in debt and hounded by debt collectors. He has recently had to flee home with his mother in order to avoid these debt collectors. The Christian community leader Khruu herself lives in the slums and does not have much money. But Khruu sought to imitate God’s abounding grace and kindness to this boy by purchasing a new uniform for him to wear to school. It was the first set of new clothes Nong had ever worn to school. Before this, it had always been fourth or fifth hand-me-downs, worn out and covered in blotches. Nong was so grateful and now walks to school with pride. His grandmother, who also lives in the slums, has encouraged his mother to return to the community on the weekends so Nong can still participate in our Sunday school outreach program and get ready for school for the coming week.

Asking the question “Is mission relevant?” presupposes the answer to a related question, “Whose mission is it?” The question of mission’s relevancy cannot be disassociated from the One whose mission it is.

What seems indisputable from Genesis to Revelation is that our God is the unstoppable God who is bringing about His unstoppable mission. In spite of humanity’s every effort to thwart God’s plans, the creator and redeemer God relentlessly demonstrates His abounding love, righteous justice and profound wisdom to all humanity.

And in the course of God’s salvation history, the death and resurrection of God the Son is the epitome of this divine love, justice and wisdom. By natural consequence, all must respond to His offer of amazing grace. When God’s redeemed seek to imitate the very nature of God himself—his abounding grace and kindness—the world cannot but at least acknowledge that this transformation must come from the divine, particularly when juxtaposed against fallen humanity.

Nong’s circumstances reflect the hope of the salvation we have received, which shapes our lives now in anticipation of that certainty when Jesus will create all things anew. At that time the foolish decisions of others will no longer have a devastating impact on children. All that will remain will be praise and glory to the One who has redeemed us out of our own poverty of sin and who will give us pure and blameless clothes to wear for eternity.

Dan works with the national church to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of children.
Names have been changed.

Youth Worker

West Asia / Theology / Church / 1-11 months, 12-23 months, 2+ years / Job ID: 560

The churches in the major cities in this land need help with developing youth ministry. Reaching the youth and discipling them is a big need.

A significant focus for the churches in this country is providing ministry and support for teens. There is very little being done and it’s a significant need. Those with skill and focus on this age-group can work even while they are learning language.

Applicants should have experience in youth work, be initiators and self-starters, have the desire and calling to work with youth and teens, and have the ability to work with others, under the authority of a pastor or other leader.

The Bible changes the church

Imagine a national church that began just over 20 years ago after years of domination by a regime that forbade any form of religious belief and practice. Now many people have welcomed the good news that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead. Their lives have been
changed, and the church has grown.

Can you imagine what this church is like? Enthusiastic new believers share their faith, while still coming to grips with what it means to follow Jesus. Leaders with little or no biblical and theological training often find it difficult to recognise false teaching. There are few useful books to help leaders or people understand the Bible, and no models of preaching from a Bible passage to help people grow as Christians.

A major need is for the church to grow in depth. Local leaders are working with Interserve Partners to help raise the standard of biblical
teaching and preaching. They aim to equip believers with God’s word to
Jesus and to fulfil God’s mission in the world.

A Bible college, operating with government approval, exists from month to month with enough to pay a small allowance to the five local staff. Many foreign teachers were involved at the beginning, but the need now is to equip local teachers by providing opportunities for study and teaching. After working together with a Partner teaching a subject, the local teacher then teaches independently. When Valentina* taught an extension class recently, students were amazed at how much they learned from her through studying the book of Ezekiel and how much they enjoyed her interesting teaching method.

Because of the threat of extremism in this part of the world, the government requires all religious leaders to have some qualification. Consequently, many church leaders from all over the country are now coming to evening or extension classes. They say, “I’ve learned so much here!” … “I’m already teaching what I’ve learned here this week!” … “I never appreciated how good and loving God’s law is” … “I have
a completely different understanding of the Old Testament now” … “When is the next session?”

Providing good literature is also a key to growth in maturity. We have been upgrading the library with suitable books and computer software,
which has streamlined the librarian’s work. Tom Wright’s 13 New Testament for Everyone books are also in the process of translation
and publication in the majority language. One enthusiastic reader
others saying, “This is an historical moment! The first Bible commentaries in our language!” A small team of people who have seen the value in preaching clearly, faithfully and relevantly from a Bible text is encouraging and resourcing small preaching clubs where people learn and practise together. Now others are asking for this training. One participant remarked that all you have to do is study the text carefully, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and present its teaching in a clear,
relevant and interesting way. She encouraged her pastor husband to attend a preaching club too. Another pastor who used to agonise over
what the Lord wanted her to say has now been liberated by realising that God actually speaks through His word when it is faithfully preached.

These are some of the ways local leaders are working with Interserve Partners in a very young national church. It is slow, patient work, with few immediately evident results, but we know that faithful and effective teaching and preaching of God’s word equips His people for mission. The Bible changes the church, and God uses the church to transform the world, in His time and for His glory.

Gwen* is a Partner who has been working alongside the church in Central Asia for the past 12 years.

*Names have been changed.

Four denominations, one church

I have been privileged to serve the national church in the Middle East and to see God at work. Under the local leadership of the Anglican, Methodist, Orthodox and Presbyterian churches, I helped pastors and directors of church-run non-government organisations (NGOs), in
particular through administration for community development projects.

I enjoyed working with these denominations and hold them in high regard. Serving God is considered a real honour and privilege and they do it with zeal.

Little Akram was brought to the Anglican-supported deaf school at nine years of age. He had absolutely no idea how to communicate. When his parents left him at the city boarding school in less than a week, instead of gradually settling him in, Akram was beside himself. He felt abandoned, left with strangers who were making funny signs he could not understand. He expressed his bewilderment through sobs and tantrums that lasted for hours. He was so desperate, they even had to lock the front door to stop him dashing outside onto the busy street.

The director and staff put their Christian faith into action and showed kindness to Akram who slowly began to respond. Although Akram was initially placed in a class with four-year-old children learning sign language from scratch, the teacher soon saw he was very bright. He even started to help his fellow classmates. After extra lessons during the
summer break, he moved into a class with children his own age the following year.

One Methodist pastor ministered in a very poor village of about 1500 inhabitants, where illiteracy was estimated at 75%. He saw the need to hold literacy classes and after-school classes to help the children grasp literacy and numeracy so they would not drop out of school. The NGO also provided poor families with school bags with essential items.

It was a joy to see how the children had grasped reading, writing and arithmetic skills. I was struck by the testimony of one teacher who admitted that initially the students were obnoxious, and after struggling for some time she was ready to quit. She prayed with the pastor about the situation. God responded by first giving her a loving heart for the
children then an amazing turn-around in the children’s attitudes followed.

The NGO supported many village projects and met with Orthodox priests who were working towards bettering the state of their village communities. One successful program provided small loans to villagers for projects that generated income: loans to purchase goats, sheep, sewing machines, or necessary stock for grocery stores, mobile accessory shops, motorcycle repairs and restaurants. The loans transformed the lives of families – widows could make a living using their sewing machines and men could work locally instead of in the cities, thus keeping their families together.

I attended a large Presbyterian church in the capital city. During the upheaval of the Arab Spring, the church found itself a possible easy target as it was situated just behind a now-famous city square. Instead
of closing the church building to the public for protection, the church opened their gates, set up a makeshift hospital and ministered to the wounded. The church also allowed Muslims to use their water so they could perform their ablutions before their prayers, as the nearby mosque was unable to cater to the large numbers. This was a friendly gesture that became a great witness to the people. Many Muslims spoke of the church in a positive way.

Thank you, Interserve, for allowing me to assist Arab Christians in serving their communities and see these people living out their faith
through active service.

Written by an Interserve Partner recently returned from the Arab world.