A Missions-Minded Local Church Case Study


By Daniel L. Sonnenberg

INTRODUCTION AND HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

As a member of the music staff with Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, NC from 1982 to 2001, I was able to see from the sidelines the development of a fine missions program over a period of eighteen years. As the church grew in membership and attendance from approximately 200 to 1500 during those years, so did their commitment to missions. In the earliest years, the mission budget was limited to a few denominational missionaries the congregation had rarely, if ever, met. Mission awareness at that time was very low as the church was just beginning to be revitalized. In the early 1980’s, however, members of the congregation began to sense the call to full-time missionary service in a variety of ways. One couple began to work with Campus Crusade, first at NC State University, later moving on to Budapest, and more recently to Moscow. Two families and a single man sensed the call to work with Wycliffe Bible Translators, one family as translators in Congo, and the others in support roles in Indonesia and with JAARS. Another family began a new work with WIC in a new ministry to drug addicts in Spain. As a result of this increased home-grown activity in the 80’s, the church hired a part-time mission coordinator. In 1993, they hired a full-time mission pastor. Under their leadership, the church has increased its momentum very significantly through a number of means. The church now supports some thirty missionaries in a variety of fields and has adopted a people group in Uganda.[1]

On my visit to the church in September 2002, I met with the current interim pastor of missions (a former missionary to Congo with AIM), who brought me up to date with some of the more recent developments and his analysis of the ministry’s strengths and weaknesses.

THE CHURCH’S MISSION

The foundation for the Church’s mission at present is the Outreach Committee under the leadership of the mission pastor. This committee, made up of a variety of sub-committees, establishes, oversees and implements the vision, philosophy, values, strategy and budget for the outreach of the Church. The committee has put together an in-depth policy which outlines these elements in detail. For the purposes of this paper, I will try to summarize these elements.

VISION

The long-term vision for missions states that because resources are limited, priorities must be established so that an increasing measure of those resources might be used in the most important areas. They have identified with the call of God to make disciples of all nations. “We believe that disciples are made by planting mature and reproducing indigenous evangelical churches.” Indigenous churches are defined as “self-led, self-supporting, self-propagating” and express “supra-cultural Christian content…”[2] Therefore, they identify their highest priority as planting such churches where there is no indigenous Church. They have established the following priorities in order of importance: 1) unreached people groups, with no viable indigenous church movement; 2) un-evangelized people groups, with “a viable and maturing indigenous evangelical church movement,” but where “Christians represent a small minority of the population and the rest of the population has potential access, but not real access to the gospel; and, 3) evangelized or reached people groups, with a “relatively strong indigenous evangelical church movement which has existed for some time…” where the “majority of the population has real access to the gospel message and everyone has potential access to it.”[3] 

PHILOSOPHY 

Their definition of world missions is “that ministry focused on peoples who are geographically and/or culturally removed from our own congregation.”[4] They identify the Scriptural purpose of their ministry as fulfilling “the Great Commission by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, making disciples, and relating to the whole need of mankind, – spiritual and physical.” Four points make up their view of Scripture’s purpose for missions with references under each: 1) to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ; 2) to reveal God “to all people by the spoken and incarnate word;” 3) “to minister to the totality of human needs as the avenue to tell about Jesus and His plan of salvation;” and, 4) to reconcile all men to God.”[5]

The questions asked of new missionaries who apply for financial assistance are illustrative of their commitment to unreached people groups:

  1. How would your ministry facilitate the establishment of a mature and reproducing indigenous evangelical church in that people group?
  2. What will be your specific relationship with the national church and are you going at their request?
  3. Are there any national workers engaged in this type of ministry, and if not, what inhibits their ability to do so?
  4. What is your “exit strategy,” that is, how do you plan to work yourself out of this ministry as national workers are trained to do it, so you can be available for another job?[6]

Another aspect of their philosophy includes the involvement of the congregation as go-ers and senders themselves. A high priority is placed on educating and informing the congregation about the state of missionary activity in the world and among their own missionaries through a variety of means (which will be itemized later), so that the whole congregation will have a sense of ownership in these endeavors.

The church requires both that the missionary be approved by a particular agency and work under their direction and that the sponsoring agency must have doctrinal standards that are consistent with those of the church.[7] This policy reflects the church’s awareness that missionaries in the field must depend on agencies for their day to day needs. When considering support for missionaries, the following priorities are given: 1) highest priority is given to those being sent out from the church with a promise of substantial support; 2) higher priority is given to those being sent out by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church than if going out with another mission board; 3) higher priority is given to those going to work with unreached people groups than those working with reached people groups; 4) higher priority is given to those involved with evangelism and church planting than those ministering only to people’s physical needs.[8] The financial accountability of candidate(s)’ mission board(s) is/are also important to the church. Candidates are not be accepted unless they are appointed by the World Outreach Committee of the EPC, or an IFMA or EFMA approved mission board or an organization with similar standards.[9]

VALUES 

The values evident among the outreach committee include communication between the missionaries and the congregation, education of the missionaries and the congregation, accountability of the missionaries, diligence among committee members and missionaries, and financial, physical, emotional and spiritual support for the missionaries.

Communication is an important value for several reasons. For the congregation to maintain its support of the mission, they must hear from and about the missionaries and their missions. This takes place in several ways. One of the best means is the use of short-term missions to work with the missionary. Those who return not only give a video-taped and verbal report to the missions committee and the whole congregation, they individually tell their family and friends about what they experienced personally and what they saw the missionary(s) doing. Short-term visits also communicate love and appreciation to the missionary when members of their congregation take the time and expense to come to help and spend time with them. Another important means of communication is visits from the missionaries on furlough and mission conferences. A furlough can last up to a year, and during that time the missionaries enter into the life of the church in a variety of ways and are given many opportunities formally and informally to share their experiences. The church holds a missions conference each year to maintain momentum and in addition to special speakers such as Don Richardson, invites the church’s missionaries to attend and speak. One of the most informative times in recent years involved a panel discussion and question and answer time with several missionary families during the conference.[10] Other means of communication include the church newsletter, personal letters and emails. Also, the missionaries are required to submit a report to the Outreach Committee four times a year.[11]

Education of the missionaries and the congregation is another important value. Every other year, the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement class is hosted at the church and taught by mission leaders from across the country. On the odd years, the Vision for the Nations video-based Sunday school/Bible Study curriculum is taught in a 13 week class.[12] These two classes have been used to set a high standard for missions in the church and many who complete the courses are set in motion as missionaries or senders. The Outreach Committee itself is an educational tool. Those who serve on the committee are assigned required reading and as a result of their subcommittee work, discover what is involved in sending and going.[13] These people then tell others. Missionary candidates must fulfill training requirements of their respective agencies and missionaries are afforded funds for further training opportunities.

Financial support of the church’s missionaries is valued. When the church begins to support a missionary who has been a member of the church, they often give substantial financial support, up to 50% of their support. Other non-members are limited to 25% of their needs. Short-term missions are funded at the discretion of the short-term missions sub-committee, but is not to exceed 50% of the total cost.[14] In case of a budget shortfall, missionary support and church staff support take priority over other areas of mission development such as education, correspondence, short-term mission.[15] The church also takes care of special needs that arise. A recent example of this occurred in January 2001 when two of the church’s missionaries in Uganda were shot with an assault rifle and left for dead during a burglary. A special fund was set up for contributions from church members after the two men returned home for medical care, rehabilitation and other personal needs. Housing was provided as needed and the church is currently providing $18,000 per year for the education/support of one of the missionaries as he attends seminary.[16]

The previous example also attests to the value of emotional and spiritual support within the church. After word of the attack, a prayer meeting was quickly organized to intercede for the men and their families. Three hundred people attended.[17] Emotional support for all the missionaries also comes in the form of short-term mission trips to the missionaries’ fields, personal letters, emails, and gifts as mentioned above. Prayers are offered almost weekly in worship services for particular missionaries and the flag of the nation in which they are serving is flown in the church sanctuary as a reminder. Names, addresses and other contact information is published in the church newsletter. Communication and emotional/spiritual support really work hand in hand. The more the congregation knows the missionaries and about what is happening on the field, the more support they offer.

Two other values evident are hard work and accountability. Members of the Outreach Committee are expected to serve on the various sub-committees described below which handle all the work and to complete reading assignments.[18] As mentioned above, the missionaries are required to send a report four times a year.

STRATEGY

Prayer is identified as a key element in the church’s strategy. It is said to be the “master strategy in spiritual warfare” to win the world to Christ.[19] Therefore, the Outreach Committee confronts the church with the importance of prayer and prays for the Holy Spirit to motivate the church of the need to pray to the end that the entire church might be engaged in prayer for the lost around the world.[20] Moreover, one couple who are members of the Outreach Committee hosts a “Prayer for the Nations” meeting in their home on a regular basis to this end. Further, as mentioned above, intercessory prayer by name for the church’s missionaries is offered on a weekly basis in the worship services focusing on one family each week. All these serve to heighten awareness and engage the entire congregation in the cause of spreading the gospel cross-culturally.

Prayer is the foundation for the ministry because God is the source of power, motivation and everything that is needed. Yet the most important aspect of missions is preaching the gospel. People must be sent to preach and to minister. This begins with recruitment. Recruitment is carried out in a variety of ways. The Outreach Committee is responsible to “identify, encourage, counsel, disciple and commend members of the congregation for missionary service.” To that end, the committee is responsible to do the following:

  1. Urge prayer for God to call out those who should serve in missions.
  2. Identify those in the congregation who have committed themselves for service, or give evidence of missionary gifts.
  3. Give opportunities for public commitment of service.
  4. Make available literature that informs about and motivates for missionary service.
  5. Permit missionary organizations to recruit at church conferences and services; give opportunities for discussion with leaders.
  6. Offer counseling and guidance through the critical years of decision and preparation.
  7. Involve adults in short-term and other missions activities.
  8. Involve young people in diverse summer work overseas and service in the U.S.
  9. Continually challenge young people as to the dimensions of the unreached world and unfinished task.
  10. Encourage participation in the IVCF Urbana conferences, ACMC conferences and other education opportunities.[21]

Serving on the Outreach Committee itself is a recruiting tool. Subcommittees include administration and budget, annual missions conference, mission education, correspondence, prayer and local/regional ministries oversight.[22] Participation in the various sub-committees affords a first-hand view of the needs of the missions and missionaries and often leads to participation in missions at a deeper level. I have noticed over the years that many from the church who later served as missionaries, first served on the missions committee. I have often chuckled to myself when I saw a new person join the committee, “It will just be a matter of time until they head out the door!”

Often, participation on the committee is preceded by a person attending the Perspectives or the Vision for the Nations class mentioned earlier. This is another part of the church’s strategy. On alternating years, these two classes are held at the church. This is done for the dual purpose of creating “World Christians” among the church members who will be engaged in sending and to provide a biblical, historical, cultural and strategic foundation for those called to serve directly in cross-cultural missions.

Recruiting leads to sending. A list of the missionaries supported is found in the church’s budge report in Appendix A. Among those in International Unreached and International Equipping are seven couples and three singles who are members of the church. The remainder are from the denomination or friends of the church.

Another aspect of sending not mentioned elsewhere is local church-planting. This function is not managed by the Outreach Committee, but by means of an ad hoc committee established by the Session. During the late 1990’s and early part of the 2000’s, the church planted two local EPC congregations: one on the opposite end of the county (North Grove EPC) and another in a small town 35 miles west of Wilmington (New Covenant EPC). In each case, members of the church petitioned the Session to consider establishing a mission church in their geographical area. The Session responded by establishing a committee to oversee the project and by providing various means of support, including $50,000 each year toward the pastor’s support for the first two years to help them get started. At the end of two years, the churches were expected to be self-supporting and did in fact become particular churches in the EPC denomination.[23]

Although the annual missions Sunday is often disparaged by many commentators because it is the only strategy used in some churches, in this case, the conference works as a key component which complements other strategies used throughout the year. Mission speakers and the church’s missionaries are invited for morning and evening services over two successive weekends with other festivities planned to make it a memorable and meaningful event.[24] Appendix B is a flyer for this year’s conference which includes short term mission workshops and a special missions program for the children. Mission agencies are invited to erect booths in the Fellowship Hall and be available to speak with people between sessions.

Another strategy is short-term missions. Adult and youth church members are encouraged and supported financially to visit the church’s missions around the world. These take a variety of forms, from work teams to evangelistic teams to ministry teams to equipping teams and information gathering teams. The purpose of short-term missions is two-fold. First, the short-term team serves to encourage the missionaries on the field. Second, the congregation becomes more knowledgeable about and supportive of missions, participants grow spiritually, have the opportunity to utilize their gifts, gain a wider view of the world’s needs and become aware of opportunities for service in cross-cultural missions.[25]

A final element of the strategy of the church is the budgeting of the mission. Appendix A shows that the benevolence budget is organized into categories that correspond to the priorities of the church listed in Vision: International Unreached; International Equipping; Regional Evangelism; Regional Equipping. Regional Poor, Widow, Orphans, Prisoners.[26] These items represent 16.8% of the church’s budget for 2003. Presbytery concerns (including other denominational missionaries) and local ministries make up the remainder of the 25% of the budget set aside for benevolence.

EVALUATION 

Strengths

I will evaluate the church’s strengths based on the ten steps from our class outline on strategy[27]. The church seems to have done well in the area of leadership. By hiring and maintaining the position of a missions director followed associate pastors for missions they have established the priority of this ministry within the church. They have chosen associates with significant experience in short-term or long-term missions and whose hearts were passionate about reaching the nations with the Gospel. For these reasons, the leaders have served as examples to the congregation, assisting the members to catch the vision of a missionary God. The mission leader has been given the support of the Session and senior pastors to develop and implement a comprehensive vision, philosophy, values and strategy that impacts many in the congregation. Teaching and preaching on missions is not relegated to “missions Sunday,” but is incorporated into the fabric of the messages throughout the year. Significant prayer is being done on behalf of missionaries and the people groups of the world during weekly worship services and dedicated prayer times. Financial giving to missions is significant, both in the annual budget and for special needs as they arise. Twenty-five percent of the annual budget is allotted for benevolence. Nearly two-thirds of that goes to the church’s top priorities – international unreached peoples and international equipping of reached peoples. The members are being challenged and equipped for missions by a variety of means. These include short-term missions for youth and adults, annual classes studying missions from a variety of perspectives, annual missions conferences, service on the Outreach Committee and through sermons and prayers in worship services. As a result, over the past fifteen years, nine couples and two singles have been sent out for long-term service from among them. A total of thirty missionaries receive substantial support directly from the church.

A strong mission committee is in place to serve the mission needs of the congregation and the missionaries they support. A mission conference is held each year spanning two weekends, featuring nationally known missions speakers, home-grown missionaries and many mission agencies. The church has narrowed its focus. In November 1998, the church formally adopted the unreached (mostly Muslim) Aringa people of northwest Uganda. Since then, they have sent some of their own members full-time to translate the Scriptures into the Aringa language and to begin the process of establishing self-supporting, self-propagating churches among them: three couples and a single person. In the process, two of the men nearly lost their lives when they were shot during a burglary and had to be sent home to recover. Nevertheless, there is evidence that God is using this incident to soften the hearts of the Aringa people. The church is also reaching out nearby. A variety of local ministries of evangelism and ministries to the poor are supported by the budget and led by members of the congregation. Moreover, the church has planted two local churches culturally similar to itself during the past eight years.

Weaknesses and Means to Strengthen the Program

In my interview with the interim Associate Pastor for missions, I asked what areas of the ministry he would like to see strengthened. He identified five areas. First, he feels their debriefing of missionaries is weak. He would like to see every short-term and long-term missionary spend time with the mission director and members of the Outreach Committee after they return to discuss their experiences and what they learned in the process. This is being done to some degree, but apparently some are falling through the cracks. He feels that both the missionary and the director/committee would benefit from more dialogue. Second, he believes that the church should provide more training for long-term missionaries before they go out. At present, these individuals meet the requirements of their respective mission agenies, but he would like the church to provide further preparation in spiritual growth, interpersonal relationships, cross-cultural awareness and reading widely the works of leaders in the field of missions. Third, he would like to see the church send one pastor per year on a short-term mission to heighten his awareness of the need to keep sending people to the field. Fourth, he would like to see more education among the Outreach Committee. He believes they will catch the vision more quickly and completely if they are constantly reading about the state of missions in the world. Finally, he would like to see more active recruiting among the young people of the church, challenging them to seriously consider the call to missions.

My own analysis of the church’s weaknesses includes several facets based on what we have learned in this class. There are ways I believe the church could strengthen its present missions program. Overall, in terms of the mission priority scale we studied, the church seems to have passed through “possibility,” “project,” “program” and “priority” and are now at   “purpose” level.  Yet, they have not yet reached the point of “passion.”[28] That is, mission seems to be a core purpose of the church, but it is not yet the purpose. The church is not yet fully focused on lost people at home and abroad. Unfortunately, the church’s progress has been slowed in recent years by difficulties with senior pastors. The progress they have made during those years in spite of the difficulties is a testimony to the grace and purpose of a missionary God. Hopefully, as the new senior pastor settles in, the church will be able to move to the next level and more fully accomplish its purpose.

Though the church has been fairly strong in recruiting missionaries from its own membership, it supports mostly Americans in its efforts overseas. It has not yet caught a vision for supporting indigenous leaders except in Cyprus and Argentina. Both of these missionaries came to the church’s attention through the denomination and are a good step in the right direction. There certainly are potential problems and risks associated with engaging indigenous leaders, but it seems the benefits outweigh the risks in terms of facilitating self-supporting, self-propagating indigenous churches. There is a loss of a measure of control, but a potential significant multiplication. This deserves some consideration. See below for how this might be accomplished.

A second area relates to the first. The amount of giving apportioned for the church’s stated top mission priority (unreached peoples) is outstripped by its stated second priority (reached peoples) three to one. Apparently, this is typical. According to our notes from class, 90% of the missionaries serve reached peoples, while only 10% serve unreached peoples.[29] How can the church increase its giving in what it deems its highest priority? One way is to send more of their own people to the unreached peoples. Another way is to enlist the help of missionaries who live in people groups geographically and culturally close to unreached groups. For instance, to reach an unreached group in Tibet, the church might begin by finding a reached group who already has national missionaries living near the unreached group in Tibet whose language and customs are similar to those of the unreached group. The church could then develop a relationship with that reached group, provide training and funding for their missionaries who could then penetrate the unreached group. The church should also investigate the possibilities here.

A third means to more fully accomplish God’s purpose in missions is to investigate the possibilities for missions to unreached peoples geographically near to the church, who are only one or two cultural steps removed from the congregation. One possibility is the international student population on the college campuses in their city.  I am aware of at least one couple in the church who already considers this their ministry and frequently invite international students into their home. But I do not believe the whole church sees this as a valuable ministry yet. Also, their city has had a large influx of Mexican immigrants in recent years and I suspect peoples from a number of other nationalities now live in their back yard as well. They should investigate the possibilities of reaching these populations. This might be a way to begin to experiment with supporting “indigenous” missionary leaders who are already part of the international population. By partnering with leaders from these populations, lovingly and humbly offering them training and financial support in the beginning stages, the church could participate in some exciting cross-cultural church planting right in their own city. Further, they may  be able to learn some principles that will be helpful if they attempt to support indigenous missionaries overseas.

A final area of refinement involves their work in planting of congregations similar to themselves such as North Grove EPC in Hampstead, NC and New Covenant EPC in Burgaw, NC mentioned above. Myrtle Grove EPC seems to be willing to plant churches of this type when a sizable group of people indicate an interest. However, this type of church planting does not seem to be an intentional, integrated aspect of the overall strategy of the mission of the church. If they want to continue to simply respond to requests as they come up, they probably should continue to use an ad hoc committee.  However, if they desire to intentionally pursue planting churches of this type, it may be better to place the oversight of the development of these church plants within a subcommittee under the responsibility of the Outreach Committee. The subcommittee would be charged with continually pursuing the “who, what, when and where” of the next local church plant. This would be done in concert with the other subcommittees of the Outreach Committee to establish priorities in regard to budget, personnel and other resources required. With such a subcommittee in place, the church could pursue both cross-cultural local church plants as described above as well as churches similar to themselves. Moreover, the church need not limit itself to its immediate region, but could look to other cities in their own state or neighboring states to begin new churches.

APPENDIX A*

* Contained confidential information, so will not be published here.

APPENDIX B**

**The flyer is no longer available.

APPENDIX C 

ADOPTING THE ARINGA

Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church (Evangelical Presbyterian Church) is a congregation of approximately 1500 members, with weekend attendance of approximately 1000. It has an active missions program with an annual budget approaching $300,000 and supporting approximately thirty missionaries (partial support). Interest in adopting an “unreached people group” grew out of the class here in “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement”, sponsored by and developed by the U.S. Center for World Evangelization in Pasadena, Calif. This interest developed over a period of several years, from 1995 to 98, and was strongly encouraged by Rev. Bryan Slater, Pastor of Missions at the time.

The conviction that God was leading us as a Church to adopt an unreached people increased to the point where the Missions Committee decided to choose three definite groups, all Muslim people, study and pray about them, with the help of research by students in the Perspectives Class, and then seek God’s direction as to which of the three we should adopt. The three included a people group in Kazakstan, Eastern Europe, another Berber group in North Africa, and a third, the Aringa in northwest Uganda, targeted by Africa Inland Mission. The Kazakstan group was eliminated when we learned that several other churches and missions were already working there. The Berber group in North Africa is certainly a needy group, but political circumstances make it impossible to send missionaries there at present. So our leading narrowed down to the Aringa. Several factors indicated this as the way to go, one of which was that we already supported a couple, Doug and Beth Wright, with Wycliffe Bible Translators, working in NE Congo, not far from the Aringa. The church already had contact with A.I.M., in support of missionaries Warren and Miriam Rich in Kenya, and A.I.M was eager to cooperate with us in reaching out to the Aringa. Peter Stam, a missionary for many years with AIM has been a member of our Missions Committee for some time, and is able to serve as liaison with the Mission. Uganda has freedom of religion, and there is no difficulty in sending missionaries there at present.

A word about the Aringa. They number from 150,000 to 200,000 and are a Sudanic tribe, a branch of the larger Lugbara tribe, with 200,000 members in Congo and Uganda. They live in northwest Uganda, in West Nile Province, just south of the Sudan border. Though the Lugbara tribe has the whole Bible and thousands have responded to the Gospel, both in Congo and Uganda, the Aringa language has an overlap of only 40% with the Lugbara, and therefore needs it’s own Bible. The Aringa converted from their traditional animism to Islam early in the last century, though their religion at present could be called “folk Islam”, a mixture of Islam and animism. The Church of Uganda (Anglican) began work among them in 1926, but encountered great resistance, and established only a few small and weak groups of nominal Christians.

When Idi Amin, the tyrant of Uganda, came to power in 1971, his goal was to turn the country of Uganda into a Muslim state, even though it was only 6% Muslim. In this he was supported by funds and military supplies from Libya and Saudi Arabia. Being Muslim, the Aringa supported Amin, who was from the neighboring Kakwa tribe, and did a lot of the “dirty work” of killing for him, thus becoming very unpopular among the other Uganda tribes. In 1979 Amin was driven out of power and out of Uganda by the joint armies of Uganda and Tanzania (which Amin had tried to invade in 1978). He retreated out through West Nile Province, area of the Aringa and of his own Kakwa tribe.

The Uganda and Tanzanian soldiers killed man of the Kakwas and Aringa, and the remainder of the Aringa tribe scattered, some to Congo, some to Sudan, and the rest throughout Uganda, leaving their Aringa county completely depopulated. It remained that way for eight or ten years, after which the Aringa began to drift back to their old haunts and re-established their villages once again. They are a dispirited, discouraged and depressed people, desperately needing the message and hope that only the Gospel of Christ can give them.

Some years ago a young Muslim Aringa school teacher by the name of Isaac Anguyo was led to faith in Christ and discipled by an AIM missionary at Arua, not far from Aringa, Seton MacClure, who had served in West Nile for many years. Isaac was led to apply to Daystar University in Nairobi, a very fine Christian University, and studied there four years, receiving a BA degree from that school in cooperation with Messiah College in Pennsylvania. He returned to his own people with a burning desire to help them and to reach them for Christ. Demonstrating a great deal of wisdom, he began by getting them started with a rice growing project to help in their nutrition, in setting up a grist mill to help them grind their grain, and in instituting a revolving library for those who could read English, all the time discipling a small group of men whom he had led to Christ. He called his little group “Here is Life”.  It has been involved in setting up a small medical clinic, a low-power radio station in nearby Arua, and a technical school for training Aringa in mechanics, carpentry, leadership, Bible, evangelism, and other practical skills. He has gained the respect of the whole tribe as a result even though his Christian faith is always “out in the open.”

We heard about Isaac through some Wheaton College contacts, since their HNGR program had sent a number of “internees” out to live among the Aringa for a few months at a time. We had mail contact with Isaac, learning more about them through him, and letting him know of our interest in adopting his people. It became evident that Isaac and “Here is Life” would provide a wonderful “bridgehead” for our work in Aringa, and Myrtle Grove sent two teams of our men over for ten days each to survey the situation, They got acquainted with Isaac and Here is Life, and also met with a number of the Muslim leaders of the tribe. These leaders told our men, “If you want to come over and help us, fine. But if you try to convert us, there will be trouble!”

Meanwhile, back in Wilmington, the Missions Committee decided on a Sunday in early November, 1998, for the formal adoption ceremony of the Aringa, with the hope and prayer that our whole congregation would become involved, in praying, giving and sending. It was the first Sunday of our annual Missions Conference. Ten days before that date, Peter Stam, already serving part-time as Pastor of Missions, received a call from A.I.M. in New York with the exciting news that ISAAC was in the United States! Several long-distance calls confirmed the fantastic idea that Isaac could be with us for the Adoption ceremony, along with a representative of AIM. He was scheduled by Wheaton College to participate in a Seminar in Birmingham, Alabama the Wednesday through Friday prior to our conference, then on Saturday to fly to Minneapolis for other meetings. His flight itinerary was on U.S. Airways, via Charlotte, NC. Released from several days of his meetings in Minneapolis, we interrupted his flight at Charlotte with a half hour flight to Wilmington on U.S. Air, and he spent three wonderful days with us at Myrtle Grove, welcoming our church into fellowship with Here is Life in reaching his own people for Christ. That was an exciting weekend for the Church, and for our Missions Committee, and served to assure us that God had truly led in our choice of the Aringa people.

Since then God has continued to lead. Reid and April Satterfield and Erik and Holly Lawrence, all graduates of the Perspectives Class and involved in the adoption of the Aringa people, sensed God’s direction for them personally to be involved, and volunteered to go to Aringa long-term. They completed a year of Bible and Seminary training, applied to and were accepted by Africa Inland mission, and attended Orientation School at AIM’s headquarters in the summer of 1999.

Reid and April went to Kenya early in 1999 for a period of Orientation to Muslim work under A.I.M. missionaries experienced in working with Muslims, and then proceeded to Uganda to get acquainted with the Aringa people. While in Kenya their little daughter Emma Jane was born at A.I.M.’s hospital at Kijabe, while the Lawrences remained at home after the birth of their little daughter, Anna. The Lawrences then proceeded to Africa to join the Satterfields.

Meanwhile another member of the Perspectives Class and the Missions Committee, Kathie Spike, sensed God’s leading towards the Aringa. She was already accepted by Wycliffe Bible Translators for service in Africa, but had not specified her desire to be assigned to the Aringa translation team. After some months of awaiting an assignment, she, and the church, were overjoyed to receive word that Kathie had been assigned by Wycliffe to the Sudan team for work on the Aringa language and Bible translation. Kathie joined our team in Uganda in 2000, with residence in nearby Arua – another confirmation of God’s leading Myrtle Grove in the adoption of the Aringa tribe.

Reid and April moved up to the Aringa area in April, 2000, and proceeded to get acquainted with the people and begin language learning.  Erik joined them in January, 2001, with plans to build housing for their families.  In God’s mercy, Holly Lawrence with little Anna were then in Kampala awaiting the completion of housing, April Satterfield and little Emma Jane were in the States for a brief visit with grandparents, and Kathie was in the States for medical treatment. So that when a burglary developed, only Reid and Erik were in the little house there in Aringa. Four armed men demanded an entrance, and then shot through the door with an assault rifle, seriously wounding both Reid and Erik. They ransacked the house, stole all the money which had been brought for building materials, $3000, the men’s first-aid kit, and left, thinking the men would soon be dead. But God had other plans. Erik was bleeding badly from a broken compound fracture of his upper right arm, and Reid’s shoulder was severely injured. Reid was able to reach a necktie, and he and Erik together managed to make a tourniquet for Erik, and they then crawled into the next room to reach the portable radio. It was 9:30 at night, late for that part of the world, but they were able to reach some German missionaries at Arua, 60 miles away, and they immediately started the two-hour drive to Aringa.  The two men were then driven to the nearest hospital, a small AIM hospital at Kuluva. That drive was extremely painful, and with no pain medicine available, as their supply had been stolen.  The road was very rough, and it took four hours to reach Kuluva.

Meanwhile A.I.M. in Kampala had been notified, and radioed to Nairobi for an AIM-AIR plane to come. The Caravan, large enough for stretchers, had been delayed in its return that night, and had to land at the main Nairobi airport, Jomo Kenyata, rather than the smaller Wilson airport which was home. Wilson has no lights for night landing. That meant that the Caravan could take off immediately for Arua, without waiting for dawn, and it arrived there in the early morning, just in time to load the two men, with nurses, for the trip to Nairobi. They went into surgery immediately, and came through it well, though the surgeon said it was a miracle they were still alive, considering the blood loss both had experienced.

After several weeks of recuperation and rest in Nairobi and at A.I.M.’s nearby Kijabi station, they returned to the States for further surgery and rehabilitation. Meanwhile the churches here had been upholding them in prayer. When the news of their attack was received, a special Sunday afternoon prayer meeting was called, and more than 300 Myrtle Grove, North Grove and other people united in asking God to grant quick healing and to use the incident to soften the hearts of the Aringa people. Their was significant financial assistance from Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian and from its daughter church, North Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church, where Reid’s parents are members. Since then there has been significant recovery. Erik’s arm and fingers, which were affected by the nerve damage, are almost back to normal.  Reid has had further surgery twice, and though there was not enough of his shoulder to reconstruct, the surgeon fused his upper arm to the shoulder blade, which at least gives him use of his fore-arm. Both the Satterfields and the Lawrences are rejoicing in God’s mercy in preserving their lives and in the degree of recovery they have experienced. They gladly recognize that our sovereign Lord was and is in control, and are believing HIM to use the attack for His own glory, especially among the Aringa people.

There is considerable evidence that God is already doing that. A day or two after the shooting, seventy of the elders of the Aringa tribe came to Isaac Anguyo to express their sorrow at the wounding of the men.  Most of them were Muslims, but they were weeping, and many of them were fasting, to express their deep regret that they had not been able to protect those who had come to help them.  Three of the four men involved have been apprehended, and two of them have admitted being the shooters. They are in prison awaiting trial. Meanwhile, the government is clearing land for a new airstrip near where our missionaries will be living, and the Aringa elders have decided to name it “The Reid and Erik Airfield” in honor of the two men. We continue to pray and believe God for a spiritual harvest among the Aringa people. The Lord has not yet clearly led with regard to the Satterfields and Lawrences return, but they continue as active members of Africa Inland Mission, and are supported by both Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church and North Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Kathie Spike returned to Uganda and continues to work on the translation of the Aringa Bible. In February 2002 Myrtle Grove sent Andy and Melba Lingenfelter to work in Uganda under Wycliffe Bible Translators, to be stationed at Arua where Kathie lives, where they will be of great help and encouragement to Kathie and other Wycliffe workers in an administrative capacity. They will keep in touch with Isaac Anguyo and the Aringa people and will keep us informed of further developments. Please pray with us for God to be honored by a great turning to HIM by many of the Aringa.

In August 2002, Reid & April Satterfield, Erik Lawrence, John Schardt and Tim Nichols returned to Arua and Aringa on a ten day “good-will trip.”

Peter Stam, Pastor of Mission

Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, NC 28409 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Budget Report, Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, NC, October 8, 2002.

Childers, Steve. Syllabus, Introduction to Missions, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL, Fall 2002.

Outreach Committee Policy, Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, NC, July 2001.

Stam, Peter. Adopting the Aringa, Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church, September 2002.

[1] See Appendix C for a narrative of the adoption of the Aringa people of Uganda.

[2] Outreach Committee Policy, Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church, July 2001, p. 2.

[3] Ibid., p. 2-3.

[4] Ibid., p. 1.

[5] Ibid., p. 1.

[6] Ibid., p. 3.

[7] Ibid., p. 10.

[8] Ibid., p. 2.

[9] Ibid., p. 8.

[10] The author was privileged to attend this discussion.

[11] Policy, p. 9.

[12] Interview with Pete Stam, Interim Missions Pastor, September, 2002.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Policy, p. 9.

[15] Ibid., p. 10.

[16] Budget Report, Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church, October 8, 2002, p 3.

[17] The author was privileged to attend this gathering.

[18] Interview with Pete Stam.

[19] Policy, p. 6.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., p. 5.

[23] These are the facts regarding the local church plants as best I can recall them as an observer on staff at the time.

[24] The author served as the music leader for many of these conferences over the years.

[25] Policy, p. 7.

[26] Budget Report, p. 3-4.

[27] Steve Childers, class syllabus, Fall 2002, Introduction to Missions – Strategy from Missions, pp. 2-12.

[28] These terms are based on class notes from Steve Childers’ Introduction to Missions lecture on November 21, 2002.

[29] Steve Childers, Syllabus, Fall 2002, Introduction to Missions – Missions Myths and Definitions, p. 12.

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