No Sacred Cows

Gunja Gurung is no stranger to the supernatural.  While it’s easy for us in the west to become jaded or skeptical, the pastor who leads a 300 member church and 9 small village churches in Kathmandu, Nepal has seen God at work in some amazing ways.

“An elderly man in my church has developed deep faith and knowledge of God over the past two decades.  People started coming to him for prayer for the sick and the needy and God performed wonders.  One day a group of villagers who heard that this man does miracles in the name of Jesus brought to him a cow that suffered from some rare illness.  He prayed over the cow and the cow got completely healed.”  The family who owned the cow as their only means of their survival thanked him -and Jesus – as they returned to their village.

Likewise, Gurung’s wife often confronts women possessed by evil spirits.  “Generations long rituals and superstitions have blinded them to the powers of darkness.  My wife did not study in a Bible College, but she believed in the Nazareth Manifesto in Luke 4:18 (in which Jesus declares the purpose of his ministry – healing the sick, freedom for captives and deliverance for those trapped in darkness) and showed the church many times the huge need for healing and deliverance of these people from demonic powers.”

As a devoted Hindu young man of 34 years, Gurung met his Lord Jesus Christ through the Gospel sharing of his elder sister.  “In the little knowledge I had about Christianity”, he says, “I viewed it as a foreign religion of the lower castes and a religion that helps these people to make money.  After my baptism in 1994, I was persecuted by my family members and was taken to the Pashupati Hindu Temple for worship and purification.  When I bowed down before the idol with everyone else, all of a sudden I uttered the name ‘JESUS’ without being fully aware of what I was doing.  That day I gave my life completely to the service of Jesus Christ.”

As a first generation Christian student from Nepal, Gurung received no financial assistance from his family.  “I had my parents, my wife and two children to be cared for in Nepal when I started my study at NIBS, the New India Bible Seminary.  As a pioneer church planter in a Hindu country like Nepal, new converts had no money or material things to share with the church.  They all were living in extreme poverty.  The financial assistance I received from Overseas Council was absolutely a miraculous provision from God and I am always thankful for that.  I would have never survived in India or completed my studies without this help.”

The work Gurung and his wife take on encompasses three main categories: Church Planting and Pastoral Ministry, Bible School Ministry, and Social Work.  “My wife has been an immense support to me in the ministry of evangelism and church planting.  She does not fear anything as she shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  She is equally a leader with me in the ministry of the church.”  With their three children, “God is using us to set a model of family ministry, which is impacting many persons and communities in Nepal.  We are thankful to God for this”, says Gurung.

Indeed, the Church in Kathmandu is growing steadily.  Women’s ministry support is incredible in church planting and growth, and God is changing lives and transforming the land for His Kingdom.  Christianity is getting strongly rooted in a nation which used to be the only Hindu nation in the world.  Says Gurung, “The first church I planted by the grace of God in the capital city of Kathmandu is one of the largest churches and we have been having people from all different castes worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ in one accord.  The impact of this Christian vision of oneness in Christ has been a blessing not just to the city, but is also expanding to many other places where we are continuing church planting.”

All new converts in Gurung’s church, as well as the branch churches in the villages, receive regular discipleship and teaching so that they will stand firm when persecutions come.  New converts committed to ministry who seek some form of formal training are offered the opportunity to obtain a Bachelor of Theology with the New India Bible Seminary in Paippad.  For those who don’t have access to training, Gurung provides non-formal training.  “I provide them systematic teachings and courses so that they will develop confidence in skills and trust in God.  All the nine outstations of my first church started with the people whom I trained.”

The Church in Nepal faces a number of challenges.  Human Trafficking.  Poverty (particularly after devastating earthquakes).  Famine.   False Christian cults like the Sachai, Matha.  And persecution.  “New converts are misguided easily and evangelists are driven away from their faith in Jesus Christ and the true Gospel.  The cults are aiming at the Christian believers mainly and this is setting one of the biggest challenges to the ministry in Nepal”, says Gurung.  Additionally, “It is difficult for Christians to rent rooms for prayer or bury their dead.  People are divided by castes and Christians are looked down upon as lower castes.”  Gurung prays, and asks US to pray, that one day “Caste-ism and all its evil effects will be eradicated from Nepal.”

Reaping the Harvest in Central African Republic

A growing number of women connected to Faculté De Théologie Évangelique De Bangui (FATEB) are impacting their fellow African citizens in myriad ways.  Two such women are Gertrude and Blanche.  Blanche graduated five years ago with a Master’s of Theology, while Gertrude is a current student.

Blanche works in a Baptist church giving theological and biblical training to men and women via the evangelism, church life and mission divisions.  She also coordinates seven – you read that right, SEVEN, other departments.  As if that isn’t enough, she teaches in the FATEB Women’s School and is also the founder of a national NGO working in three towns that cares for widows and children of deceased pastors.

With her husband who is a military Chaplain, Blanche organizes prayer sessions for soldiers, their families and for the nation.

Blanche is most pleased that the teaching she provides “helps to correct theological practices and errors and puts the Bible at the center of peoples’ lives.”  She seeks to cultivate what she calls “a complete commitment to God from people, and the development of God’s mission in all aspects of their lives.”  As a result, she has observed improvements in the conditions of the widows and orphans under her tutelage.  “That work,” she says, “brings freedom.”

She is also developing new pastoral counseling tools in order to better follow up with people.

Back on campus, Gertrude sees what alumni like Blanche have achieved and that motivates her to continue to grow in everyday life as well as her faith.  She’s learned how to be more self-sufficient and says her understanding of God has changed because of her studies.  She’s “noticed a change in my manner, the way I consider people, the way I listen to people and how I address them.”

Her plan for ministry is to teach the Word of God to young girls.

Thank you for your faithful support of our ministry!

From Worshiping the Creation to Worshiping the Creator

“I realized it is more exciting to know the Creator than his creation.”

John Calvin Thathapudi didn’t always believe that.  Raised in a good Christian family with strong Christian values and convictions, both his parents and grandparents were pastors and missionaries.  Even so, Christianity was, to John, just a ritual with some basics to follow.  Though active in the church choir, he never attended Sunday school.   “I loved Science, believed everything it said”, he states.  “And to believe Genesis- it seemed foolish and ignorant.  I was controlled by my human instincts and developed a callous attitude towards God.  Having seen my parents’ hardships and trials in ministry, I developed a hatred towards God.  When asked whether or not I would like to be a pastor, I remember responding ‘you cannot expect me to be a beggar.’”

What changed him?

“My mother’s prayers.”

“I was having a difficult time with my studies at Loyola College where I happened to stay for six months in the Student Hostel.”  Despite his indifference, or perhaps outright hostility, toward God, John tried to seek Him regularly, particularly during his struggles at college.  Finally, in October of 2009, “God spoke to me through Isaiah 43:25. ‘I am He who blots out your transgressions… and I will not remember your sins.’  God’s Spirit convicted me…  I confessed and repented for my sins.”

John made up his mind to spend the rest of his life in service to Christ.  “He has put a strong desire in my heart to serve Him among the intellectuals and educated.  Nobody ever expected such a change in me.”

John, who was a sponsored child through Compassion International until 2013, learned personal evangelism through Campus Crusade for Christ while serving in the slums of Chennai.  He attended International Youth Fellowship, Inter-Collegiate Prayer Fellowship (Tiruvella), Come Ministries India, and five months of Discipleship Training School with YWAM, Chennai.

His interest these days is apologetics and teaching future leaders who will impact their communities.  He attended SAIACS, the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies, where he obtained an MDiv in Theology and Ethics in March of 2018.  “I am hopeful that my studies will broaden and deepen my understanding of His written word so I can defend Christ among intellectuals who are in spiritual darkness and to those who are in intellectual confusion.”

Reaching the Embattled Through His Love

In a country struggling to recover from nearly five years of war for independence, one Christian leader has devoted her ministry to serving impoverished communities of Croatia. Edita Plascak has devoted her time to delivering donations and other basic needs to those seeking to survive the country’s ailing economy.

“I try my best to visit as many families as possible,” she said. Although her ministry focuses on humanitarian aid, Edita also responds to their spiritual needs through Christian counseling that draws those she serves closer to God. “So many people we serve need someone to present the hope of Christ when listening to them,” she shared. “Every person needs someone to listen to their story, no matter their situation nor the size of their problem.”

As a country working through post-war crisis, Croatian communities battle more than sin and a lack of repentance. Among the impoverished young families with children, Edita found that their limited knowledge of scripture often makes their circumstances feel more dire. Utilizing her training from Evangelical Theological Seminary (ETS), Edita works with other church leaders to teach the value of learning, studying, and using scripture in everyday life. “The people I serve are struggling, but little by little I am seeing them gain more hope and optimism about their future,” she said.

Edita also shares what she has learned at ETS with friends and family who are eager to learn about theology. Without a regular income, the scholarship assistance made it possible for her to finish school and earn her degree. She looks forward to using her knowledge to continue helping the poor and needy.

Thank you for your faithful support of our ministry!

Enjoying the Sunrise in Ethiopia

Yoseph Haddis teaches and leads ministry at his local church and has recently expanded his ministry to include mentoring at Youth for Christ -Ethiopia, a local youth organization.

Yoseph’s work is critical to his community. Due to extreme poverty and hunger, many youth are out of school, forced into child marriage, child labor, and human trafficking. Each week Yoseph draws upon his training from our partner school, Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology, to coach small group leaders and gives them tools to serve their communities and be prepared to handle life challenges. He also organizes teams that address spiritual needs of the people they serve. “My ministry is about helping others find hope in Jesus Christ and to passionately pursue the Word of God,” he said.

Although Yoseph’s community faces major challenges with marriage, parenting, and unemployment, his work has begun to have a big impact on the church. First, a new ministry was created which focused on serving impoverished and at-risk teenagers. Then a children’s ministry was restructured to utilize teenage volunteers who are new to the faith, as mentors for youth. The ministry now serves six times the number of children, most of whom come from the homes of non-believers. Yoseph has also developed Bible study materials that are impacting how others are learning about God’s love for them and living in a way that honors Him.

The scholarship assistance Yoseph received has allowed him more time to study and learn the Bible, and has enabled him to think strategically about the most effective ways to have impact for the Lord in his community.

Thank you for your faithful support of our ministry!

Greater Together for His Kingdom!

As a ministry of United World Mission, Overseas Council looks forward to even greater Kingdom impact in 2018!

By teaming up with UWM, OC has gained a significant teammate whose influence has been felt on a global scale. And our mission of equipping Christian Leaders by partnering with vital seminaries worldwide to advance God’s kingdom will have even greater impact, in more than 70 countries!

Planting Seeds of Hope in Guatemala

My wife and I serve more than 300 in our community by working in youth ministry as part of the leadership team. In addition to preaching and leading team meetings, we are also in charge of the marriage ministry. One of the great joys of working in ministry with my wife is that I not only have the opportunity to preach to her and our community during services, but I also get to see my wife work with Sunday school teachers, training them and teaching kids.

We have witnessed how essential it is to share the knowledge acquired at SETECA. Through the classes we have taken, we have been able to more deeply and accurately serve the people of our church who want to learn more about God. More importantly, the knowledge I have acquired at SETECA has helped me in my spiritual life. It is from this growth that I can share the Word with others so they can be spiritually strengthened.

“The scholarship from Overseas Council has turned a great obstacle into a great opportunity to serve in His Kingdom.”

Press Release: OCI and UWM

Merger Brings Leadership Development Organizations Together to Further Serve Global Church

United World Mission to assume leadership of Overseas Council International, uniting formal and non-formal training efforts that help equip thousands.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Two organizations with a long history of helping grow and strengthen the global church through training and leadership development are joining forces to maximize their impact.

The merger will bring Overseas Council International (OCI,http://overseas.org), based in Indianapolis, under the leadership of United World Mission (UWM, http://uwm.org), headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., effective Jan. 1, 2018.

The two groups have played a largely behind-the-scenes role in equipping thousands of missionaries, pastors, church planters and lay people over the past 70 years. Each emphasizes the development of indigenous leaders for effective ministry in their communities and nations. By uniting they expect to expand their reach and deepen their impact.

Founded in 1946 when a group of Ohio churches united to collaborate for global mission, UWM today has 400 staff serving more than 100 national partners in 48 countries. With an emphasis on non-formal methods, UWM makes ministry training accessible and reproducible to people that are outside the reach of formal efforts.

Established in 1974 by a group of businessmen in Indianapolis to raise funds to support Korean seminary students, OCI—or Overseas Council—today serves 130 partner schools in 70 countries which equip almost 60,000 students annually. Its focus is on formal theological education for Christian leaders who can equip and influence the church.

The combined organization will be headquartered in Charlotte, with OCI functioning under the name Overseas Council (OC), a Ministry of United World Mission.

“This move makes sense at so many levels,” said Dr. John Bernard, president of UWM. “We share many of the same values, even as we carry out ministry in distinct ways. We anticipate synergies that will lead to greater impact in both formal and non-formal ministry training. Beyond economic efficiencies, strategies, and aligned mission statements, we believe this merger enables us to better reflect the unity of Christ’s body on mission together.”

Scott Cunningham, OCI’s interim president and CEO, said that he believed the merger would be a “God-glorifying combination for the expansion of leadership development for the health of the global church, accomplishing more together, by God’s grace, than we ever could separately.”

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About United World Mission

Founded in 1946, United World Mission (UWM, www.uwm.org) exists to develop well-trained, spiritually-formed leaders, and to strengthen and multiply disciple-making churches that proclaim and demonstrate the gospel.  They fulfill this mission by partnering with the church around the world. Currently UWM’s 400 staff serve more than 100 national partners in more than 48 countries. 

About Overseas Council International

Established in 1974 to provide Korean seminary student scholarships, Overseas Council (www.overseas.org) has since grown into the largest leadership development ministry of its kind in the world. Under the banner “Called. Trained. Multiplied,” Overseas Council now “equips Christian leaders by partnering with vital seminaries worldwide to advance God’s kingdom.”

CUTLINE: FUSBC (Biblical Seminary of Colombia) in Medellín, Colombia, is one of the Christian leadership institutions with which Overseas Council (OC) and United World Mission (UWM) have partnered to help raise up and equip indigenous church leaders—work that continues as OC and UWM merge to maximize their efforts.

Christian Leader from Kenya Is Having an Impact on College Students

Our ministry empowers Christian leaders around the globe and this past month we learned how one leader is working to leave a lasting impact on her community.

While studying for a Master of Divinity degree at African International University in Kenya, Christian leader Joyce Mwangi works with the Fellowship of Christian Unions (FOCUS). FOCUS is the Kenyan equivalent to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the USA with a mission to equip college students for effective service to share the Gospel. Specifically, she is involved in student ministry, discipleship, mentorship, and training in different areas.

The Lord is using Joyce to preach to students on African campuses. She is also serving as a mentor for Norwegian exchange students who are coming to Kenya for a six-week program.

This exchange program where young Christian leaders learn about cultural context when teaching God’s word was made possible by a partnership between the FOCUS movement in Kenya and the Norwegian Students Christian movement. Mwangi is also a member of the Anglican Church of Kenya, St. Francis Karen, and the Mother’s Union, while serving as a preacher in youth services.

Your willingness to pray, give, and share for this ministry creates opportunities for Christian leaders all over the globe, like Joyce.

Argentinian Pastor Carries Influence Within Government

I Pastor Because…

One of the many great privileges that we experience at Overseas Council is to see how God’s hand is in everything. In the case of Argentinian Roberto Vilaseca, his Christian influence within government has a chance to impact a country that has struggled with police abuse, poor prison conditions, endemic violence against women, and obstacles keeping indigenous people from enjoying the rights afforded to them by Argentine and international law.

“Earlier this year, God opened a door for me to further extend my reach in the community. I was appointed Advisor of Religious Affairs for Buenos Aires’ city government. My theological preparation has allowed me to flourish in my new role. With God’s help, I will make a positive impact on our city leaders and community members,” said Vilaseca.

Currently enrolled in FIET Theological Institute, Vilaseca currently also fulfills the role of pastor at the Source of Life Christian Church in Buenos Aires. “I hold a Master of Journalism and Communication degree, but as a pastor I recognized my need for more theological training. FIET is equipping me with new skills and knowledge to become more effective in my calling and I am filled with joy to see how God is using me, His servant, to influence society and the Argentinian Church,” said Vilaseca.

Your willingness to pray, give, and share for this ministry creates opportunities for Christian leaders all over the globe, like Roberto.

Thank you for your faithful support of our ministry!