Many times I have traveled to other countries, and you never know what to expect. You try to keep an open mind and be ready to adapt to any situation you might find yourself in. I recently had the opportunity to travel and be part of a unique experience along with my co-worker, Stan.
One principle at the core of the ministry of GNPI is cultural relevance. We talk about culture in countries other than the US. The GNPI-Thai team was invited to film the testimony of a Thai-American dentist living in St. Paul, MN. It was a rare and interesting opportunity for them to offer a reversal for our US mindset of missions and show us what cultural relevance looks like as our Thai co-workers did “missions work” in Minnesota.
Watch this video and I think you’ll understand.
Romans 12 comes to mind for many reasons to help describe my feelings regarding this team and their commitment to follow God’s will and show God’s love in a country other than Thailand.
“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” – Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)
It’s been said that those who fail to read history are doomed to repeat it.
I received word this week from a colleague in Ukraine about a wonderful opportunity to share God’s Word in public schools there. Yes, you read correctly – in the public schools of atheistic, post-communist, eastern Europe! Here is some of what this colleague shared:
“…the most exciting opportunity of the trip was an invitation by the city education department to address public (state) school humanities teachers on ‘a common foundation for public ethics.’ This opened a door to speak openly about God’s nature and his plan as the only reliable foundation for any ethical system, about Scripture as his revelation for us, and about creation and our role and purpose in it. Only one lady out of the entire audience was unhappy about us ‘presenting only one view and only one religion instead of all of them.’ (Please pray for her – something in her heart is resistant to admit the truth.) However, other teachers were very open for the Message. Times of trouble make people search for the truth and hope desperately, and we have an exciting opportunity to share it. Please pray for the seeds planted among school teachers – people who will have the greatest impact on the next generation!”
Only a small percentage of American schools would welcome a strong presentation of God and his Scriptures as the plumb line for human ethics! Yet, only one teacher, in what we see as an environment highly resistant to God’s Word, had any objection. Yes, the tide is turning and some are asking, “Is history repeating itself?”
In the many US churches I visit, I often share about opportunities our centers throughout the world have to replicate what you’ve read above. In Ukrainian public schools, at Kenyan political rallies, on South African public television stations – God is opening doors for the spread of his Gospel.
People in the congregations hosting me often say, “Hey, we need to see productions like this in our schools – we need our politicians and television networks showing them!” Isn’t it ironic that 90 percent of GNPI’s financial and prayer support comes from the United States, yet we’re seeing the most impact through open doors in other nations – even atheistic, post communist Ukraine?
I’m so proud of each of you who support our global evangelism efforts! You’re taking the blessings God is giving us here, in this nation, and using them to plant seeds in other parts of the world. Those seeds are growing into a bountiful harvest!
So many of you participated in the Beyond Ourselves campaign, and for that we are truly grateful. To date, we’ve collected 93 percent of all pledges made toward the campaign – a wonderful testimony to your generosity and faithfulness to the legacy of GNPI. Eighty-five percent of churches who made a pledge have fulfilled their commitments.
You’ve helped continue a nearly 40-year legacy of ministry through the creation of NOMaD teams, helping complete projects like The Global Gospel, and upgrading the production capability of our regional centers.
Bob Sartoris, GNPI’s international director, recently traveled to Mexico to deliver some new equipment to the team there. They wanted to say “Thank you” for your generosity, so they shot this short video.
Hannah lives in the Philippines, and her transformation story comes to us from Nenette Pacoli, regional director of GNPI-Philippines.
Hannah is a young lady who had been deeply hurt by the actions of her father. Her family had been torn apart. She awoke every morning asking, “Why are we a broken family?”
Hannah was in so much pain that she turned to worldly comforts with terrible consequences. She even attempted suicide. However, in March (2014) she saw All Things New, a movie produced by GNPI-Philippines, and her world shifted.
Hannah came to our church three years ago and I actually saw the transformation in her! We showed All Things New, but she didn’t tell me her reaction until the following day—that she had actually “been thinking about” or “considering” or “I’ll get around to” forgiving her father. It was All Things New that gave that necessary push…the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. There were tears in her eyes as she recalled parts of the movie that touched her deeply.
We have such an awesome God! Although I know of stories of video materials touching people, I am still amazed at how God uses this medium to get his message across.
When Hannah asked her dad if it was ok to use the video publicly, he said, “Okay, if it will bless other people, push it.” The good thing about it is that Hannah’s dad no longer feels shame and guilt that he has to hide. Instead, he has experienced God’s grace and forgiveness so he can talk about his past, both with regret and joy! Even her mom has seen the video and hopes it will bless others too.
Bamboo worms are not what I was expecting to dine on when I agreed to travel to a remote Karen village in northern Thailand. I was invited by a team of workers from a local Thai church in Chiang Mai (a large city also in the north part of Thailand). I was surprised when the worms really did not taste bad at all. In fact, after the first grub, I found myself asking for another. I was told by Tee, who is the wife of the pastor from the church in Chiang Mai, that the Bamboo worms in the village were the best that could be found. I thought, if I am ever going to try a bamboo worm, it might as well be one of the best you can find.
Tee grew up in the Karen village that we were visiting and, in fact, still had much of her family living there. She and her husband have arranged many trips back to her home village to teach English at the local government school. While teaching English, they also were allowed to teach Bible stories and sing songs about Christ’s love for people. It was on one of these mission trips that I was asked to help. I was asked to take pictures, teach English, and show a film on the Solar Kit developed by GNPI. (keep reading to see the 30 second video of the Solar Kit in action below.)
The village was without power, except for a few solar panels used to charge car batteries, which in turn powered light bulbs in some of the homes. This was the kind of village the Solar Kit was developed for. On September 15 I packed up all the equipment I thought I would need and headed up the mountains with the church team.
The first night there we were all introduced to the families we would be staying with. I was staying with Tee’s sister and her husband. They showed me to a mat on the floor next to a window, which was nothing more than a hole in the wall. They gave me a mosquito net and a couple of blankets as I prepared for bed. It reminded me of when I was a kid and my parents worked in a Thai village in another part of northern Thailand. The cool, night air was filled with sounds of insects, dogs, and pigs looking for places to sleep.
We spent three nights in the Karen village teaching English and sharing the story of Christ with the children. On the second night, I had the opportunity to use the Solar Kit. It was a great success.
Word had gotten out that a movie would be shown at the school, and children of all ages came out of the woodwork to see it. Some children were able to stay for the whole show, while others stopped in for only a few minutes as they hurried about finishing their tasks before bedtime. At any one time, there were around 30 children present. All were fascinated by the movie, and by the expressions on their faces, you would have thought each one was competing in a world championship staring competition.
The video shown was a cartoon bought from CBN Siam. They provide good, Christian material for the ages that were going to be watching the video. The cartoon show told the story of Christ, leading up to and including his death and resurrection. It was a good reinforcement to the Bible stories told during the days’ activities.
The Solar Kit system worked remarkably well. In fact, many children asked if another video could be shown. Although I planned to show another video, we ran out of time before I had the chance as we had to return to Chiang Mai.
The Sunday after our return to the city my family went to the Thai church. While there, the pastor invited me again to the village, this time at the end of the year. He stated there was another village he wanted to go to, along with his wife’s home village. He said, “It will be another good place to use your video system to show the message of Christ”. This time I plan to take the whole family with me. Sadly, Bamboo worms will be out of season by then. That’s okay though, as there is always something new to try in the villages of Thailand.
By Sergei Golovin, Regional Director of GNPI-Ukraine
A big danger in times of peace is to take God’s mercy for granted.
When troubles come, we can see how merciful God is and always was. No one could predict what was coming in Crimea and Ukraine (except those who planned the disaster). Yet, the Lord was preparing our ministry for the change, even though we had no clue about it. Praised be God’s name!
I expected the ministry transformation period to take 6 months, if not a year, until the two-campus approach would work completely. However, at our recent team Skype conference, we concluded that we are pretty well adjusted to the change already. It went smoothly because of the ministry reorganization the Lord arranged a year ago by making our structure more flexible and the development of proper leadership for every ministry aspect. We have kept our focus on teaching, training, and discipleship, and the Lord continues to provide many opportunities.
God definitely brings us joy in the midst of any troubles of the world! As an oriental proverb puts it, “The dog keeps barking, but the caravan keeps going.” A church in Kiev, where I teach and do seminars from time to time, has invited me to share the Word of God at their baptism retreat. Despite all the turmoil, all the wars and the rumors of war, the Lord is adding to the church daily! Praised be his name! What a joy to see the fruit from each of us by the grace of the Lord! As Paul put it, one plants, another waters; but God gives the increase! Troubles under the heavens make people seek the answers from above. God is already using the current situation for spiritual awakening in Ukraine. I believe, in a few years, the church of Ukraine will become a much more powerful agent for delivering God’s truth to every corner of Russia, and Crimea will be a special door for it! May the Lord continue to lead us and guide us in spreading his glory!
We are reviving our publishing ministry as well, and plan to a print couple new titles this fall. We are considering our options of printing the books in Crimea, in the mainland Ukraine, or doing some in both places. Printing in Crimea seems more reasonable at this time. We have a developed ministry infrastructure there, and it is completely preserved. Please join our prayers for the ministry field expansion!
I am really excited about the new projects in Kiev for the School of Christian Apologetics and for the Reliable Foundations Club that are progressing. Please continue to pray for them, as well as for peace in Ukraine. We highly desire peace to come. Even if it will not, we will continue to share the ultimate peace and hope in the person of Christ! Your prayers are what we need the most!
We have been praying for wisdom about how to reach the neglected and forgotten Ogiek community of central Kenya. One of the biggest challenges is communication. Most of them do not know Swahili, English, or any other indigenous language apart from their own Ogiek mother tongue. We have a contact person who is a local missionary among them. We wanted to reach out to them using Solar Kits.
God answered our prayers in a wonderful way.
We did go to the Ogiek community several weeks ago, and we were received warmly.
The Solar Kit empowers ministers who go to remote areas to have greater impact.
One church leader told us that the Solar Kit had very important information. This leader said that by watching the film on the Solar Kit, the girls have learned how they can avoid being tricked into immoral habits and spoiling their futures. Another church leader from West Pokot County said, “It was a small box. One could not tell it could do great wonders. When they opened it and did the set up, I realized it was something important mostly for our pastors, but also for our county government leaders to use at church and to teach our children.”
Here is a small video report on the work we did with the Ogiek community using a Solar Kit.
While visiting Uganda, Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s prime minister during World War II, dubbed it the “Pearl of Africa!” There was no mistaking why. The beautiful landscape and fertile soil along the base of the mountains and along the great Nile River was inviting to many Western farmers relocating to start new coffee and tea plantations.
Uganda was thriving in many ways. In fact, at one time, the majority of African doctors practicing on the continent were educated in Uganda! After independence from Britain in 1962, decades of corrupt leadership caused Uganda to sink economically, socially, and spiritually.
Today, that tide is turning as Christianity once again gains a prominent place within the culture. In 2009, missionaries in Mbale, Uganda, invited GNPI to build a production center to aid in multiplying their church planting efforts.
The result? The number of church plants has grown from 200 to around 1000. These wise missionaries understood the truth that media can accelerate global evangelism!
Today, GNPI-Uganda in Mbale produces and distributes Christian audio and video content. It is also a training center for communications students at another bright spot in Uganda, the up-and-coming LivingStone International University.
Isn’t that encouraging? GNPI-Uganda is strategically located in a city with a growing Christian university in a country that is being revived!
By Tom Silkwood, Regional Director of GNPI-Thailand
We have completed a new Biblical Extension Course (BEC) program on Christian unity with Mr. Boonsak Tongdee. In addition, our partners at Freedom Films have finished a new testimonial program in the Changed series featuring Mr. Boonsak.
Mr Boonsak grew up in a strict, Christian home. When he left for college, he abandoned his Christian life. Then, in his second year of college, Boonsak happened to move into a Christian dormitory. From there he returned to faith in Jesus. Please pray that God would use these programs to teach and encourage many people.
One of our most recent Changed programs features Panida Thongdi. She shares her testimony of how she went from being angry toward her father to a person who works in church ministry and now cares for her aging parents. She became angry with her father because he considered selling her to buy a house. She left her village and stayed with friends in Bangkok. Then she studied God’s Word, and she let God change her heart towards her parents. She lives a life of surrender, forgiveness, and freedom in Christ.
Several weeks ago, we uploaded Movement Everywhere #5. This episode is about how Pastor Nattapong is using his coffee plantation and coffee factory to influence people for Christ in his area. The fascinating art of coffee production is opening doors to share the Good News.
My team is in the USA to visit an Asian church in Minnesota. This is a huge step for my coworkers, and hopefully, a potential new partner for our ministry. Our team is there at the church’s request, and the church is funding a majority of the trip.
My son, Jeff, and his family are doing well. However, Jeff has been shocked at what it takes to live here and the stress of it all. My daughter, Kari, and her husband, Dustin, now live here as well. Dustin and Kari are looking for new employment and have some opportunities that are very interesting. They are praying and trusting the Lord for their future.
All in all we are doing well and trust the Lord will provide, guide, and bless us as we trust him.
Good things come to those who wait, right? Do you remember the advertising campaign for Heinz Ketchup in the late 1980s? Apparently this particular condiment was so good, you’d be willing to tip the bottle and wait a few hours to add it to your burger as it finally came out of the bottle.
Well, if good things come to those who wait, better things come to those who faithfully plan, execute, make necessary adjustments, and then expectantly watch as growth and change occur.
I’m deeply convinced of this as I watch our friends at GNPI-Thailand. Thailand has always been a strategic point for missionaries reaching tribal people groups, like the Lisu and Lahu, as well as the main Buddhist populations of Thailand. Just as important, Thailand also serves as a gateway to more difficult-to-reach places, like Myanmar and even China.
GNPI-Thailand is a collaborative approach to using media and technology to accelerate evangelism, including a long-time partnership with missionary Tom Silkwood and Freedom Films. Tom’s faithful work in Chiang Mai has been building steadily over many years and is now bearing great fruit.
Exciting opportunities continue to emerge as Tom and his team produce videos in the national Thai language and leadership training materials like the Biblical Extension Courses (BEC) in other local vernaculars.
Yes, good things come to those who wait. Yet, reaching Buddhists for Christ takes decades. Better things are coming for the people of Thailand because of the patient presence and media productions of Tom Silkwood and GNPI-Thailand.