Current news and stories from our Alliance field workers.
by Brian Lindsay, an Alliance international worker serving in Thailand
I first met Mr. Kim on a chaotic Sunday morning. While the adults listened to a sermon upstairs, I was teaching children’s church to a rowdy group of kids. His sister, Noke, and her husband, Roong, previously told me that they had been actively witnessing to him since becoming Christians two years ago.
Surprisingly, when Mr. Kim walked in that Sunday and sat down quietly, the kids were all behaving and working on their crafts. So, I had a rare free moment to talk with him.
He said he was waiting for Noke, who was upstairs. I told Mr. Kim he could go sit with his sister if he wanted to. He smiled and thanked me but remained seated.
It occurred to me that’s not how a Thai would extend an invitation and perhaps Mr. Kim thought I was just being polite. So, I said, “The air conditioning is nice up there and they’ll be done soon, so you should come up,” gesturing for him to follow me. I led him upstairs to a seat near his sister. Then I returned to children’s church.
I don’t know what the pastor preached while I was with the kids, but Mr. Kim began returning to church more frequently.
Outside the Norm
It takes a lot of courage for a Thai person to attend church. Few personally know another Thai national who is a Christian, since less than 1 percent of the population follow Jesus. Statistically, Thailand is the largest Buddhist nation in the world—to be Thai is to be Buddhist. Attending a Christian church service is a big step outside the cultural norm.
But the changed lives of Mr. Kim’s family members and their verbal witness had clearly gotten him thinking about Jesus.
One Sunday after church, Mr. Kim said he wanted to follow Jesus too. So, right there at the table as church members cleaned up from lunch, he prayed to receive Jesus!
My wife, Abby, recently read that 70 percent of Thai Christians say the main influence in their conversion was a personal relationship with another Thai Christian—an average layperson. This has been the case in our church plant.
Praise God that our Thai church members are reaching their family members and friends!
Intercede for Mr. Kim and other young Christ followers in the church. New believers here face many temptations, family pressures, and confusion over the nature of salvation through Christ versus Buddhist idolatry. Pray for us as we continue to disciple them and encourage them to share their faith with others.
by a creative-access worker in Asia
One evening, I was doing some computer work at a café that’s part of a project my wife, Samantha*, and I help with. I sat down to wait for her return from a meeting when a Caucasian man came in with a young Chinese woman. Our café director later learned he was from Eastern Europe.
The man was friendly and said hello to me, making small talk and asking what I recommended from the menu. After ordering his food, he and the girl settled at another table. A few minutes later, they decided to join me at mine.
As they finished eating, the man excused himself to use the bathroom. During the meal, it became apparent to me that the girl was uncomfortable. So I took the opportunity to ask her about the situation.
“Did you just meet him today?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Do you feel safe?”
It was a conversation I never expected to have that night.
At this point, several of our expat staff arrived at the café. I discreetly told them about the girl’s discomfort, and we helped her safely leave the premises.
The café director and his brother stayed behind, spending several hours talking with the man about his life and sharing the good news with him.
That night, our team saw how easily girls can get into situations from which they find it difficult to escape. The program we work with, headed by The Alliance in Canada, seeks to help women at risk of being trafficked and provide them with safe, dignified work.
Our partnership with the group through CAMA Services involves projects and businesses that include a café, a jewelry business, a hair salon training center, a vocational school startup, and safe houses for at-risk girls.
Although this young woman was not a trafficking victim, the realities of vulnerable young people being taken advantage of came to light for many of us that night in a vivid way—even as this is something we all are working to fight against.
We also learned that asking a simple question like, “Do you feel safe?” can be powerful in helping someone.
Please pray for this ministry and for Alliance teams around the world that are working to combat the sex trade and other forms of exploitation. Ask God to intervene to rescue these women and bring them into relationship with Jesus.
At least a dozen Alliance families have experienced severe to total loss of their homes in and around Panama City, Florida. Currently, local Alliance churches with the support of CAMA Services are working hard to help restore the significant amount of damage that this town suffered from Hurricane Michael. Enid Cherry, assistant to the Southern District superintendent, wrote on October 15:
“Phil Hagar, Southern District superintendent, is in Panama City with representatives from CAMA Services and our pastors to assess the situation and develop an action plan for relief efforts. We sincerely appreciate those who have responded with offers to help and donate, and those who are faithfully praying for the communities, families, and individuals who are recovering from this disaster.
“We are seeking God’s provision as we attempt to meet the needs in Panama City, since just last year we sent the entire balance of our disaster relief fund to provide relief to those in Puerto Rico who were affected by Hurricane Maria. God is already providing!
“A church outside our district collected enough resources to fill a 26-foot truck with tarps, generators, chainsaws, and other essential materials that are unavailable but in great demand. We already stand amazed at the ways God uses His people to solve problems and answer prayers.”
Phil Lohmeyer, a disaster coordinator who assists CAMA Services in situations like these, reported that:
“Panama City and the area look like a war zone. Electric power remains out, and the best estimate is that it will be restored October 28. There is a lot of fear, and there has been looting and violence because of the scarce resources. The largest need is for financial support, as this will be a long-term recovery process.”
You can be a part of taking care of our Alliance family in the Florida Panhandle who have been severely affected by this storm. Please prayerfully consider giving to CAMA Services, which will allow your gift to go directly to helping these families, churches, and communities.
Based on a report by Renée Valach, MD, who serves with The Alliance at Bongolo Hospital in Gabon, Central Africa
My story begins in 2007 with a little boy named Edmond. He’s from Etéké, a village about three to four hours north of Bongolo Hospital, where I serve as a medical doctor.
Etéké is about as deep in the rain forest as you can go. The road isn’t really a road; it’s mud—deep, thick, and gooey—nearly impossible to travel during the rainy season.
When I read Acts 1:8, . . . you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth, I think about Etéké —it’s absolutely “to the ends of the earth.”
Edmond is from this spiritually dark village. Some may remember a few years ago the story about a spiritist ceremony, during which the villagers burned the feet of an Alliance pastor and his colleagues. Etéké is two hours beyond that area.
A Major Decision
Edmond had traveled that long muddy road to receive care at our hospital; his dad, Mark, accompanied him. While this little boy was receiving treatment, both he and Mark decided to follow Jesus.
Mark had had a bad temper. So when he returned to the village, the people could tell there had been a huge change in his personality. As a result, several more Etéké villagers decided to follow Jesus. Soon, an evangelist traveled to the village, and later a lay pastor began ministering there.
Fast forward to 2015. I was at the hospital, caring for Karen, the three-year-old daughter of the lay pastor in Etéké. Her mother asked, “Doctor, could you help our church?”
“What do you need?” I inquired.
I learned that the small fellowship, about 30 people by this time, was meeting in a garage of an abandoned Belgian gold mine company from the 1930s. So I traveled to Etéké to bring them the paint. On another trip, I brought them some Bibles.
I’ve learned from my travels to Etéké that the church leaders will tell the congregation as we gather, “And our preacher today will be Dr. Renée.” So each time I go to the village, I prepare something to say.
Inspired by Habakkuk
On the trip in which I took the Bibles, I knew the congregation had never seen an Old Testament. So I prepared a message from the Book of Habakkuk and showed them the verse in chapter 2, verse 4, The righteous will live by his faith.
I explained how that verse is repeated in the New Testament (Romans 1:17). One young woman put her trust in God because of Habakkuk.
Today the church in Etéké numbers about 100 people. Recently, the Gabonese Alliance network of churches decided to send a fully trained pastor, Mitchell and his wife, Claire Marie, to reach out to the villages in the surrounding area. Praise God!
Bongolo Hospital currently serves about one third of Gabon’s population. All patients—about 40,000 a year—hear a clear presentation of the gospel, along with their families and friends. Last year alone, more than 1,400 people came to Christ through the hospital’s outreach.
Since Hurricane Michael touched ground in the evening of October 10, The Alliance Southeast District and the Southern District have been working to assess the massive amounts of damage created by this storm. This hurricane is the third most intense to hit the United States in terms of pressure and the fourth strongest in terms of wind speed.
Alfredo Gutierrez, The Alliance Southeast District superintendent, reported that a church plant on St. George Island is preparing to be a distribution center for the island as many people are stuck because they are without gas and supplies. CAMA Services and district staff will be working together to set up a response team.
Forgotten Coast Community Church in Eastpoint, Florida, has been giving out supplies like food, bottled water, hot coffee, cleaning supplies, diapers, and pet food since Sunday, and they are still awaiting more supplies to give out. They are also offering their building as a place for people to have A/C when most of the area is currently without power.
Phil Hagar, Alliance Southern District superintendent, wrote on Friday, October 15:
“It has only been 36 hours since Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Gulf Coast with a vengeance, and already it is starting to fade into the background of the national news cycle. But I assure you that for those directly affected, reality is now beginning to set in for the millions of residents that are beginning the long journey toward recovery.
“I have remained in constant contact with Brian Rice, pastor of Heritage Bible Church, and Richard Duncan, pastor of Historic St. Andrews Church, both in Panama City. Their homes were damaged, and the entire area is engulfed with debris and destruction everywhere.
“Several families from Heritage Bible Church and Historic St. Andrews Church have lost their homes completely. Some were blown off of the foundation by 150 mph winds; others were engulfed by flood waters from the massive tidal surge.
“On top of that there is no power, no running water, and the necessary supplies to make urgent and needed repairs are in short supply or unavailable. The devastation is so massive that residents are being told it may be weeks, possibly more than a month, before power and water are restored.
“These people are part of our Alliance Southern District family. And there are thousands upon thousands of others with similar stories that have been affected by this tragedy in the same way!
“On Monday, Philip Lohmeyer from CAMA Services, the relief arm of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, will be on the ground in Panama City. I will be joining him along with our Panama City pastors to survey and assess the situation and come up with practical ways that relief can be provided in a manner consistent with our size and capacity as a district.
“In the mean time, I am calling upon our family to pray that God will:
Console those who mourn . . .
to bring about beauty for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning,
and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
~ Isaiah 61:3
“Pray also that we can show Christ’s love to those outside of our family who, because of this horrific circumstance, are more open to Christ’s redeeming love and the message of hope, comfort, and salvation that He offers.”