Happy Fourth of July to our readers in the States! As the US celebrates its independence, we offer you some holiday reading — stories from our most recent annual report about how God is bringing his freedom to people around the world.
By Warren Janzen, International Director — I recently faced some challenges that pressed down like weights thrown over my shoulders. During this time, I asked God for a word or an image on which I could focus my prayers.
He gave me a word: Breakthrough.
I began asking God to breathe into this word. I thought that maybe if I prayed hard for many months, perhaps we would eventually see some significant developments in our work among the unreached.
I was confusing my effort with God’s grace.
Just a few weeks later, I spoke with a coworker in Southeast Asia who shared about several new Bible studies starting in a village of outcasts. The key channel for these Bible studies is a group of teenage girls, perhaps the most vulnerable and weakest segment of that society.
He said: “This is an incredible breakthrough.”
There it was again! Looking over the notes I had taken during our call, it was like God breathed. He pulled back the curtain just a little and showed how he was demonstrating his power through the “weakness” of these young believers.
And that became fuel for my heart, my faith. So often, we want to see God’s power released in our lives, in our world, yet we feel weak. God’s work through these young women energized me to continue pursuing him, doing what I can to join with his work among the unreached.
I’m expecting more breakthroughs.
In fact, I believe this year will be filled with breakthroughs. That is not an invitation to sit back, wait and watch. That is an invitation to pray earnestly, to do all we can to be ready for how God will work.
As you read the stories in our annual report, stop to praise our good, trustworthy Father who is working among the unreached in so many amazing ways. Stop and pray for breakthroughs in these hard and challenging contexts. Stop and consider how you will join his work.
Prepare for a year of breakthroughs.
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When we offered 15 Shan girls educational scholarships, our vision went beyond rescuing them from the sex trade. Even as we watched the gospel change these teens’ lives, we persistently prayed for a breakthrough that would transform their entire village.
We prayed for years, but only one Bible storytelling group started. We saw little interest in the gospel — until now.
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Two decades ago, as the Soviet Union crumbled, a young Slavic couple moved across the border from their native Ukraine, hoping to reach other Russian speakers with the gospel.
Slavic* and Katya* arrived in Russia’s Ural Mountain region to a city of one million—but they found only one evangelical church with 100 members. The next two years were exciting, as God added 50 young believers to the church.
Our team in Russia has long asked the Lord for opportunities to engage new unreached people groups. In the past year, he started opening door after door in answer to these prayers.
Slavic and Katya were the keys.
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In 2016, SEND launched its newest field: Diaspora | North America. One of our diaspora workers shares about her developing relationship with a refugee named Princess*.
Many refugee women arrive not speaking English. They don’t have cars and they do have small children, so we study English together at their homes. Recently, Princess and I have been reading children’s books together. Little Bear and Richard Scarry were well-loved, and then I brought Princess the story of Joseph.
Praise God, Princess was prepared to connect with this account.
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In Opole, Poland, the Holy Spirit won’t keep quiet, not even in the library.
Every Wednesday, a growing group gathers there to discuss spiritual matters.
“We watch a video about a difficult issue, and then we ask, ‘What does the Bible say about this,’” explains SEND missionary Mitch Misak. “We have 40 minutes to talk, but we could use another hour.”
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In August of 1806, a group of students from Williams College met outside to pray for foreign missions. A sudden rainstorm forced them to take cover under a nearby haystack. This makeshift shelter lent its name to their ongoing Haystack Prayer Meetings, which are credited as launching the modern missions era.
In July of 2016, SEND missionaries quietly bowed their heads to pray about a new opportunity. SEND had been invited to launch a deep and generous collaboration with two other missions organizations: TEAM and SAM (South America Mission). As we prayed, we wondered with excitement if this was the start of another great missions movement.
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*Names have been changed.