As Network Beyond Board members recently met for a four hour planning and prayer time, we talked about who we are as a group. Our purpose, "transforming people and communities" is displayed on our literature because we believe the Gospel truly transforms. Yet, we are more than a slogan. We have witnessed something special--that "something" being a work with people. I thought you might enjoy seeing a few of nearly 100 people stretched around the world who are leaders in this work. That number itself amazes me. I was recently asked how Network Beyond happened and why it has grown so explosively. I'm always a bit humbled with a question like that because it is largely the result of God's favor, as we just follow His call to trust Him. As you enjoy the photo, I hope you will consider yourself part of the story, because you are in your prayers and gifts. Pray for the faces you see, for they represent commitment to serve Jesus and include circles of supportive people behind the scenes.
Network Beyond supported works of compassion such as the Girls’ Rescue Center in Kenya, Atulya and Courage Homes in India, plus community development in Uganda and Peru. We continue to struggle within a difficult-to-reach people group in the Horn of Africa.
Global networks expanded in 2017 resulting in new disciples and churches in such places as Peru and Syria. The stories of God’s work among global refugees inspire us. A recent development involves the care of Syrian orphans.
Many leaders participated in our International Training Institute (ITI), now involving thousands of leaders in 14 nations. Curriculum was updated to assist new teachers. Our teaching and intercessory ranks kept pace, joined by new friends
"There's something different going on here." This thought ran through my mind often on a recent trip. Perhaps it was the passion in the faces of the leaders who came from so many places. Maybe the vision for ministry, embraced by so many. For sure, maturity was evident as Jesus’ transformation of these disciples’ lives continued.
But something else caught my eye. It reminded me of David Garrison’s research of voluntary movements of Muslims to follow Christ. Defining a movement in terms of 1000 new believers and 100 worshiping fellowships, Garrison noted one such movement during the first 1300 years of Islam. From 1980-2000, there were 8 of these movements … then 64 more during the first dozen years of this century! While great needs exist, my sense was that such Muslim background disciples are not as rare as previously thought. Through Network Beyond partnerships and ITI trainings, we witness this work of God’s Spirit and are thankful.
Rose is one of our ITI graduates. She was challenged to think about how God wanted her to apply what she learned. Her calling—to bring the gospel to Muslim men! She met five men under a coconut tree in coastal Kenya. She began discipling them, and over time all five embraced Christ. We affectionately call it, "The Church Under the Coconut Tree," though they would use different language.
Several weeks ago, Rose wanted me to meet two of her friends. I introduced myself. The first man said, “Hi, my name is Mohammed.” His friend greeted me as well, “My name is also Mohammed.” They looked at each other with a bit of a smile. “We have a lot of Mohammeds in our church!” (By the way, they now need three coconut trees when they meet.)
They call themselves the "African Dream Team." They are all recent ITI graduates who desired to teach others what they learned in ITI. So they recently traveled to Zambia to do just that.
They described what they experienced through the week with fifty-four Zambian leaders: “There was absolute joy in the room. They didn’t want the team to leave.”
Bishops attended, pleading with the ITI team to bring more people. One bishop was amazed as he understood a basic biblical truth for the first time. “All the concepts seemed like new concepts … God’s truth came alive and brought life change!” The training in Zambia also brought an invitation to teach in five additional nations.
Our long-time partners in Peru were part of multi-national teams teaching ITI curriculum in Cuba and Colombia. In early 2018, we will work together in Ecuador and Peru. We anticipate our first ITI graduation in the Peruvian Federal Prison this month.
If there is a word to describe these men and women, it is “vision.” Pray for them as they travel to a new area to develop leadership training throughout Latin America. They have seen the hunger of leaders needing training that equips them to advance God’s Kingdom work.
A team led by an ITI graduate in Kenya spoke of the impact of ITI in his life. They began 445 Discovery Bible Studies in South Sudan amid much opposition. Over 2,000 have professed faith and continue to be discipled. He writes, “In short, God is in the business of saving His people.”
We met with five ITI graduates from the hearing impaired community. They have a big heart for the hundreds of thousands of hearing impaired in Kenya, an unreached people group in itself. They begin as teachers in 2018.
Makem* was one of sixty Farsi speakers in a recent International Training Institute (ITI) in Salzburg, Austria. Our team wondered, how did this 20-something engineer from Iran become a refugee in Europe?
Makem first started to question Islam when a Christian friend asked him if the Koran was true. He studied both the Koran and the Bible, seeking to know truth and asking numerous questions of his family.
Unfortunately, Makem’s uncle worked with the Iranian secret police. As the uncle plotted to arrest and possibly kill him, his mother urged him to flee to Turkey. Later, with Turkish visas about to expire, Makem sought refugee status in Greece. However, his journey was just beginning. Makem found a place with 57 others on a ten-person raft. Each was charged $1000 for their journey to freedom.
The journey was stormy, with waves crashing over the small boat. Finally, the engine stopped. Makem cried out to God (not knowing if God was real) to save him, along with those in the boat. It was then Makem received a strange vision—unscrew a plug on the engine. As the screw backed out, he heard air rushing out. After screwing it back in, Makem pulled the cord on the motor, and it started!
Because of the vision, he and a friend both came to believe Christianity was true. God was real. Makem told his story to the immigration official in Greece, also a Christian, who granted their request for asylum. Today Makem is part of a growing movement of Christians being trained through the ITI … one whose cry was heard.
Hungry … eager … energetic … these are the words the Network Beyond team used to describe recent ITIs in Egypt. The Cairo and Upper Egypt locations saw 180 students attend, with 27 new graduates. Multiplication continues with recent graduates co-teaching courses.
The devastation continues in Syria. Our national leader and his team continue to be harassed by government officials and people opposing the spread of the gospel. In this, God has protected them, though their vehicle was badly damaged.
Ministry continues in several parts of the country. Their prayer is that people would come to know Jesus.
We have great respect for our friends at New Generation Trust (NGT) in India. Few work so tirelessly or so effectively among those broken by abuse and caught in the evil of trafficking. One of their ministries occurs in an area of the city noted for its poverty and violence. Many come to a clinic NGT staffs. In addition to the clinical work, Friday nights are a time when people are invited to hear messages of hope, found in the love of God. One 14 year old attended, her life marked by years of rejection and abuse. The process of transformation has begun, providing needed emotional and spiritual healing. Pray for this young girl and many like her, for a needed nurse for the clinic, for God to strengthen this new community, and for wisdom in caring for many Burmese refugees entering the region from Myanmar.
Quick Updates …
• Our leaders in Syria have been under continued threats. While this has happened, God has worked. They are excited about a new church ready to launch and request our prayers on Friday, September 15 as the work begins.
• Safari Run is a wonderful fundraising event held to raise funds to support additional girls at the Girls’ Rescue Center in Kenya. The goal is to add 3 additional girls at the Center.
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