May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
2 Thessalonians 2:16–17 NIV
It’s good to be back home in Aotearoa New Zealand after living out of our suitcases in the US for more than two months! We were warmly welcomed by many gracious hosts as we visited 34 churches in 10 states on the East Coast, Midwest, Southwest, and West Coast. How do we feel? Exhausted, but also encouraged and hopeful.
This trip was a long-anticipated opportunity for us to reconnect with partner churches and individuals in the US. We were all set to visit in mid-2020 … but, well, you know what happened. The New Zealand government re-opened the country’s borders in May, which finally made our trip possible.
We were unsure what we would find on our travels after reading international media coverage about how the pandemic affected US communities. So we decided to use our visit to share a message of encouragement and hope about how God is doing a new thing in Majority World countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America – because of and despite pandemic challenges. The worldwide Body of Christ is strong, growing, and connected like never before. Churches are responding to needs in their communities with energy and creativity in the name of Jesus. And a new generation of leaders is bringing renewal and fresh ideas. Many people said they needed to hear this good news.
To our delight, we were also encouraged and our hope was renewed by the partner churches we visited in the US. We witnessed:
One of the highlights of our trip was meeting Rev. Dr. Louis and Ainla Ao. Louis and Ainla are from Nagaland in Northeast India, and now they pastor Stelton Baptist Church in New Jersey. The new vision and hope they bring to one of New Jersey’s oldest Baptist churches is testimony to the power and possibilities of God’s mission “from everywhere to everyone.”
Pastor Louis and Ainla participated in the “Christian Enterprise Development” course we taught in South Asia through Zoom for North East Christian University (Nagaland) from January through June this year. He is now echoing this course at Agape College (also in Nagaland) to equip frontier evangelists to support themselves and bless their communities through Christian social enterprises. Click on the photo to view a short reflection video by Louis and Ainla.
Looking ahead, we are hopeful that we will be able to travel more freely to be with partners in late 2022 and 2023. We look forward to encouraging and equipping them in our ministry areas of leadership development, community and economic development, discipleship, and cross-cultural ministry training. Still, teaching and consulting through Zoom will continue to be part of our new reality. As an example, we will teach our “Christian Enterprise Development” course for about 300 pastors and leaders in South Asia again in the second half of this year.
Where do you find encouragement and hope in your local faith community? We’d love to hear your stories.
May God encourage your heart and strengthen you in every good word and deed!
Bruce and Ann
Praise God with us for