Church Volunteer (various)

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

The Churchs 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 peoples 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.

A ministry of encouragement

When I first arrived in Central Asia 15 years ago, I vividly remember the Principal of the Theological College telling me, “You’ll be a great encouragement to the women pastors!”

“Most unlikely!” I thought to myself.

I knew no one. I couldn’t speak a word of the language and had very little understanding of the culture. I had years of experience of teaching and pastoral ministry, but in a very different context. In this culture, I was a complete novice.

Now that I have learned the language and gained a greater understanding of the culture, I’ve been privileged to work with and encourage many people; both women and men. The theological college is now locally run and though no expats officially work there, I’m still involved in various ways.

I’ve worked with local teachers with varying success and am always delighted when I hear from students how much they enjoyed and learned from the teaching of friends like Venera, Kostya and Gulya.

A very able young woman, Venera worked with me teaching some Old Testament books. At first, she taught only sections of each lecture and developed into teaching the subjects on her own. She married a young man from a neighbouring country and now only comes back once a year to see her parents and to teach. However, God continues to use her knowledge and skills in preaching and teaching as she serves in a large church in her new home city.

Kostya is a fine young man, who came to know Jesus through a student movement here and worked with this group for ten years. When he had leave to pursue theological studies, I was able to advise him about places to study online and guide him to books and links along the way. He is now engaged in work towards a PhD and I’m happy to be a discussion partner and resource.

Gulya, a pastor in a village nearby, is a friend and colleague with whom I’ve taught. For the past ten years she has been leading the only church in her village. It is known and respected by all. Gulya has been involved with me and others in the Langham Preaching Movement. Her continued involvement in a preaching club is helping her and the church to grow in depth of understanding and love. She says, “I used to pray and pray for inspiration about what to preach. But now I find it so much easier. We go through a book of the Bible and work carefully on the text … and find inspiration. God really speaks through his Word — to me as well as to others.”

Ordering books to expand our library has been just as important. Can you imagine trying to do theological study without books? “How do you know which books to order?” someone asked me recently. Experience over many years has taught me which of the books that have been translated would be useful for students and teachers here. Translating suitable books into the local language – or rather, working with translators to check the translations – has become part of my work, as has seeing them through to publication. Suggesting books to be translated by a publisher in other parts of the former Soviet Union has also borne fruit.

So, fifteen years on, I’m pleased to see how God has used the skills and experience He has given me to be an encouragement to people in a very different culture. God has also provided local friends and colleagues to love, teach and encourage me as I serve with them here. I’m very grateful for the privilege.

Gwen is a long-term Interserve Partner who has been working alongside the church in Central Asia for 15 years.
All names have been changed.

Watching Gods grace work

She turned up in my small group on the first day of my first year. A young woman, slender and frail, skin as dark as the night, dressed in faded clothes, barely speaking English. A few of us wondered how she possibly passed the entrance exam. But her name was Kiruba, which means ‘grace of God’. Maybe it was by God’s grace that she had been accepted into one of the most prestigious Bible colleges in the country. But how was she ever going to get through four years of rigorous tertiary studies in English? Maybe I could help somehow. Would it be worth it? Maybe the college should just send her home now.

In second year, every student has to read the Bible aloud in the chapel. How was Kiruba going to manage it? Her first year had passed in a blur. She barely understood instructions, often managing to show up in the right place at the right time by literally following the other women. Others from her ethnic group must have been helping her get through the classes by translating for her, both ways. She asked me for help and came to my apartment every day to practise reading her Bible passage. This wasn’t a sermon, mind you, just simply reading the passage out in front of the whole community. As she stood behind the lectern, quaking with fear, every student and every faculty member was holding their breath.

It was word perfect. And with a boldness that must have come from the Holy Spirit.

One Christmas while our residential Bible college was on its holiday break, I went to visit Kiruba and a few other students in their homes. After about twenty hours on the rickety train, she met me at the tiny station and we rode in the open, ‘naturally air-conditioned’ bus another four hours to her home.

It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. There was a lot of love here, but not a lot of money. It was a simple mud-brick house with a couple of bedrooms, a common area and a kitchen outside. The beds were made of jute rope tied over wooden frames. We walked in the fields and chased the chickens and chatted about this and that. I wondered how this farm girl ended up at a prestigious Bible college in the big city 2000 kilometres away, and what would happen after she finished.

In final year, all of the students have to preach in the chapel. By then we were no longer anxious about what would happen when Kiruba took the pulpit. We all knew that this was a woman anointed by God with the power of His Spirit. She had an incomparable boldness, a fearlessness that made others stop still and listen. Where had it come from? I believe it was there all the time. I always felt that my time in the classroom wasn’t as significant in the lives of our students as the time I spent with them in the college dining room, by the playing field, in my lounge room. My colleagues and I had just allowed Kiruba the space to blossom and flourish under the care of her Master. She trusted in Him fully, and gave herself fully in his service.

Now Kiruba pastors a church in the south of the country, together with her husband.

Jessica has taught at Bible colleges in Asia and Australia. She currently provides leadership and pastoral care to Interserve workers in South East Asia.

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 its 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.

Lead Pastor

South East Asia / Theology / Church / 2+ years / Job ID: 1566

Vision: By Gods grace the church seeks to nurture disciples of Jesus who encounter God and one another and are vibrant refreshed and equipped for loving service and outreach. Mission: The churchs purpose is to glorify God by knowing Him in community growing in Christlikeness and going to serve.

The Lead Pastor provides pastoral leadership for the church working a minimum of forty hours per week in the ministry of teaching preaching and caring for the spiritual needs of the congregation. As a member of the Leadership Team the Lead Pastor works in conjunction with the Management Team to organize and facilitate the day-to-day ministries of the church including worship Christian education social concern and missions outreach visitation fellowship discipleship and counseling. Ensuring good communication with church members is vital and then working cooperatively with them in the ministries of the church recognizing and encouraging the use of individuals spiritual gifts within all of the ministries of the church.

Applicants should have a vibrant personal Christian faith love for and commitment to the local church international experience and/or experience living as a cultural minority so as to be comfortable interacting with people of other ethnicities and cultures willingness to learn to understand and enter into the local culture and community experience working with people of many different denominational backgrounds. You need to be a team player able to encourage and work collaboratively with other ministry leaders.

Assistant Pastor

South East Asia / Theology / Church / 1-11 months, 12-23 months, 2+ years / Job ID: 1586

A small international fellowship was set up 13 years ago by some overseas workers. The congregation is a mix of overseas workers who are in the city for ministry and business refugees and local believers who like to interact with foreigners. On a regular Sunday there are usually 40 adults and 25 children. There is no membership and it is not an official church thus only has Sunday services and Sunday school. It is a warm and easy-going community of people.

The Assistant Pastor will help to pastor the fellowship with main role being to preach regularly (2-3 times a month). The Senior Pastor holds overall responsibility for the fellowship. The second role is to support the community members through visiting counseling and practical support. There would also be opportunities at times to support local churches or believers. It could be a good placement for a couple with the wife helping with Sunday school and member care for local and overseas workers.

The person should be a man with an educational background in theology and mission and with experience in pastoring and in living overseas. The person needs to be excited to learn local culture and language but could function with English. A flexible and serving attitude is required.

Imitating Gods 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.

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.