Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We’ve been home a week and our internal clocks are finally getting back into sync. Montana is half way around the world from where we’ve been, and once home the challenge is to be awake during the day and asleep at night. We have been resting up after twenty one flights, five nations, four AFCM Family Reunions and a combined preaching schedule of around thirty five times.
We’ve written two newsletters while traveling and you’ve seen quite a bit in print concerning the early portion of the trip, so this will be written in reverse order starting with Nepal. We landed in Kathmandu and ministered with D.K. Daniel at his Church. The building was visibly full, but what’s not visible is how this Church is multiplying. Right now there are twenty five other Churches that are being planted by Pastor D.K. and his team. Over the years another fifty have been started and turned over to pastors trained by the Bible School at this headquarter Church in Kathmandu. D.K. told me it takes about three years from Church plant time to turnover time and they are now targeting a portion of the country that has been largely ignored.
We have never seen Nepal so open for the Gospel. In the cities we would strike up conversations with waiters, taxi drivers and random people on the streets and most of the time they would have a believing relative or friend that had taken them to a Church service, or they were believers already! We did an open air evangelistic Christmas program in a village near Surkhet. A generator powered sound system was set up in front of the Church building and turned up beyond loud so the whole village could hear praise and worship followed by preaching on the true meaning of Christmas. Six responded to the invitation to receive Jesus as Lord, but we could see most of the village standing in front of their homes listening, many hearing the gospel clearly for the first time. If we would have done this when we lived in Nepal close to thirty years ago, all of us more than likely would been arrested and sent to prison. The spiritual climate has definitely changed for the better!
Bethel Church is doing a tremendous work. They have started twenty Churches in the villages surrounding Surkhet including the one we held the Christmas program in. We delivered an AFCMITC video Bible School to Youth Pastor, Chiran, son of Senior Pastor Padam, and he will use it to help train Church staff. We had a great time ministering in this 1200 member Church and then in the evening we did another open air Christmas celebration in the street in front of their Christian School.
In Sri Lanka, AFCM National Director Pastor Benedict Fernando is a key leader being used in reconciliation between the two major groups on this island nation. Civil war between the minority Tamil and the majority Sinhalese raged for several decades with the combat only ending five years ago. Pastor Benedict has put together an AFCM Lanka Leadership Team consisting of three Tamil and four Sinhalese Pastors. This team working together set the preaching schedule for Pastor Steve Green, Liz and myself. We did AFCM Family Reunions in three cities, one in a Tamil area, one in a Sinhalese area and one in Colombo with a mixed Tamil and Sinhalese crowd. We also preached in six Church services, evenly divided between the two groups. God is using AFCM Lanka to not only be a voice of faith, but also to demonstrate His love by bringing reconciliation to these two distinct language groups.
Once we received our visas and made it into India our efforts were greatly rewarded. We had 120 Pastors and Church leaders attend our three day AFCM Family Reunion. Pastor Steve Green and his son Javan caught up with us the evening of the first day and than Steve taught all three sessions on day two. Javan was quickly pulled onto the worship team playing drums, something he did in Sri Lanka as well. After lunch on day three, India National Director Noah Bower called his leadership team together along with myself for a question and answer session. There were a number of questions on how AFCM could be registered in India which Noah answered very well, and then questions about how to get the AFCMITC translated and overdubbed into Hindi. At this time we discovered that the Pastor who did most of the interpreting during the conference had previously worked for Indian TV, translating and overdubbing English Bible teaching and preaching. He spoke up and asked if we had English transcripts of the Bible School and when I said yes, he got very excited. He went on to say that he could overdub one hundred hours in four months in his Church office if he just had a computer with the right soft ware. With no need for a fancy recording studio, this would be inexpensive and quick. What an answer to prayer!
While we were in India, Ron and Annette Theisen were hosting an AFCM Family Reunion on the Napo River (Amazon tributary) in Peru. We were originally supposed to be there, but the timing just wouldn't allow it, so we helped put together a team of AFCM Pastors to go speak and help Ron and Annette with this. The team was made up of Pastor Michael O’Leary and Jeremy Fransen from Minnesota and Pastor Mark Stearns and Don DeVlieger from Montana. I’ve heard it was a tremendous success with over 20 villages represented, over 30 adults and 20 kids accepting Jesus as Savior, 20 got baptized in water, 9 couples got married, many filled with the Spirit and everyone prayed for by the time it was over.
AFCM Philippines is coming on strong! We have twenty six ITC video Bible Schools which has produced solid Pastors and graduates excited about and committed to expansion. National Director Raul Cuaresma has been working closely with Pastor Fernando Lausa and together they have traveled the islands casting the vision and organizing the results. We now have Regional Directors on the three major grouping of islands and next year we will hold AFCM Family Reunions in all three regions. We had over one hundred in attendance at this year’s reunion and we saw such a zeal for reaching and discipling the people of the Philippines and the nations beyond!
Visiting David and Paula Mahawon in Northwest Thailand is something we’ve wanted to do for a least a decade. But then to go and help organize AFCM Thailand and speak at the first Family Reunion there, wow what an honor. We were blessed to meet up with so many of our AFCM family from America: Sherwood & Gloria Vegsund, Jesse Tricola, Brett Smith, Pablo Gamez, Shan & Lindsey Mahawon and Tai, what an awesome time we had together! Being part of worship services in the Shan language and then preaching with David interpreting into Shan was just awesome! David and Paula are now the AFCM National Directors for Thailand and have it on their hearts to expand into the surrounding tribes and nations.
In closing, we can’t adequately tell you how thankful we are for the awesome privilege it has been to see God’s hand on these seven weeks with so many wonderful people doing His work in 5 nations. We thank you for your prayers and for believing with us as we go to the “Ends of the Earth!”