Those true Christians who have ever traveled in Europe will know that the evidence of past Christian faith is everywhere. Place names, existing buildings, and ruins—once symbolic of a lived faith, and used in direct support of that faith—are scattered all over the continent, but the living communities that built and named them are gone.
Here in France, about 1% of the population will attend a Christian service this Sunday, and only God know what percentage of that small number are truly his. To rekindle the faith in this land is a daunting challenge.
To this challenge, Matt & Katie Riley have given themselves. They are living, and raising their four children, in one of the most difficult places on the face of the earth to be boldly follow and serve Christ Jesus. Why?
The short answer is simple: they believe God has called them to do it. They would serve him wherever they lived, but they believe their Lord wants and needs them in France. He has work there for them to walk in. After nearly six years, they are well integrated into French life, are very fluent in the language, and have just taken possession of a new home in their assigned village. How do they do their work?
First, they build relationships with their neighbors. They are constantly open to the possibility that the next person may be a “person of peace.” They are building webs of relational connectivity – at the grocery store, the bank, the hardware store, and on the playground.
Second, they make opportunities to break bread with those they meet. Tomorrow night there is a concert in the square behind their home, and they are cooking out with a few of their newest acquaintances. They are trying to honestly and lovingly get to know them as people.
Third, they have established a simple entry path for those interested in exploring the Christian faith. They call it Discovery Bible Study. What does the bible really teach about God, about human beings, about the purpose and meaning of life? No one has to believe to participate, but the prayer of the Rileys is that—in time—some will.
Fourth, Katie has specifically begun to meet with other young mothers, to share the joys and challenges of motherhood. She is the gospel leaven in the lump.
To this date Matt has not begun regular public Sunday worship in Pontivy. That will be added when the time is right. But there is daily prayer that the kingdom will come in Pontivy, as it is in heaven.
Will you join them as intercessors for the arrival of that glorious day?
In this special interview, we speak to Isaac Lasky, who is the global coordinator of the new NAMS Global Apprenticeship Program (GAP). Having interned for 2 years at our NAMS base community in Bangkok from 2014-2016, Isaac has taken on the challenge of developing and managing a one – two years apprenticeship program for young people who want to learn to be disciple-making leaders at one of our NAMS bases. This will be a wonderful opportunity to get equipped and experienced in becoming a missionary disciple of Jesus. Please help us get the word out!
NAMS: Tell us a little about your background and journey to faith in Christ?
Isaac: I grew up in a Christian family in Colchester, England. I was part of a number of vibrant churches. My favorite memories from those times are of mission trips. I was baptized when I was 14 years old. I had some rough times when I was 16/17 years of age but came out of that season with a deeper ownership of my Christian faith. A big part of that was joining NAMS European partner church, DNA Networks, in Colchester.
When I was 18 I did a six month trip to Mumbai, India and that cemented in my heart a sense of call to the nations. I then gained a BTh Mission from Formission College through Reign Ministries, whilst I serve as a youth worker for DNA Networks for three years. It was soon after that I met Manik Corea and Jon Shuler and they invited me to be a NAMS apprentice in Bangkok for two years!
NAMS: What was the experience like serving as a NAMS apprentice/intern in Bangkok those 2 years? What was most difficult? What grew you the most? What did you enjoy? Please tell all the juicy bits!.
Isaac: It felt like a massive step of faith. Moving the other side of the world to work in a new country, culture and language was a big adjustment but through it I learnt to have a greater dependence on God and so many other things with it.
I would say that being away from friends and family was the most difficult part. But I have learnt that the Lord puts the lonely in families. Through this experience I have gained friends that have become like family and a fiancée that will! I really treasure those relationships.
In terms of growth I would say the amount of opportunities I was given was the key. I had a period of acclimation but I was quickly given opportunities to lead and develop new work. I didn’t always succeed, but the team supported me every step of the way and I have learnt so much about leading pioneering work, especially in a cross-cultural context.
I also really enjoyed supporting and teaching at NAMS conferences in Bangkok, Myanmar, Nepal and India. It was an opportunity to be part of what God is doing in different parts of the world, to learn from Christians in other cultures and to see that we are part of something much bigger!
NAMS: You are now the NAMS Global GAP coordinator. Tell us in a few words what it stands for, and what its main purpose is?
Isaac: The main purpose of NAMS Global Apprenticeship Program or GAP is to train and equip the next generation of pioneering disciple making church planters. We currently looking to have Global Apprentices at NAMS base communities in Thailand, Nepal, USA and Chile.
NAMS: What kind of people are we looking for to join NAMS GAP?
Isaac: We are looking for people who are teachable, adventurous, pioneering, have a heart for mission and are committed to following and obeying Jesus. This may be ideal for young people looking to do a gap year or for people in their 20s/30s (or older) who want to get their feet wet in global mission. If they want to become NAMS companions, this will be ideal preparation too.
NAMS: What will they receive from being an apprentice on this programme?
Isaac: Apprentices will hopefully attain the following things: they will be equipped and trained to be a disciple making leader anywhere in the world; they will receive hands on training and mentoring from established disciple making leaders; there will be opportunities to lead and pioneer new works; they will get to participate in NAMS projects, missions trips, conferences and retreats; and finally, they will experience serving Jesus in a cross-cultural or missional context.
NAMS: On the thorny issue of funding, how much is needed to join this programme? Will GAP participants have to raise their own support?
Isaac: The cost of the program is dependent of the location of the apprenticeship. An applicant needs to contact us to get a country-specific price. Apprentices will need to raise a certain percentage of support with the rest coming from NAMS Global and the hosting base community but that is tailored according to an applicant’s background and circumstances. There will always be a need for an apprentice to raise their own support. It’s an important step of faith, one that has greatly benefitted me personally.
NAMS: Whom should they contact or what should they do if they want to find out more or wish to apply?
Isaac: The first thing for them probably to do is visit our website at www.namsgap.com and register your interest! I can then answer your questions and give more information over email or Skype.
My name is *Hadmed, and I am married to *Berenice, and together we have two marvelous children.
I am Egyptian, and I have spent all of my life in the city of Cairo, which is the capital of Egypt and has a population of over 18 million inhabitants. My family comes from the Coptic Christian tradition. I grew in this belief system until I was in my 20s when I came to know Jesus Christ in a personal way. Then I began to live a life of service for Him.
I have served through sports ministry as a soccer coach to children and adolescents for many years. This is a strategy which God has given us to reach and connect with people in Cairo, the majority of whom are Muslim. Additionally, a couple of years ago I began to serve as an assistant pastor in a small church located in an incredibly poor area of Cairo called “the Garbage City.” I currently serve there once a week with children and young people.
In 2016, I served for three months with a NAMS team that came to serve in this region of the world, and together we developed various workshops throughout the city of Cairo. We directly impacted 30 people through these workshops, including South Sudanese refugees, Coptic Christians, and Egyptian Muslims. This permitted us to connect with people and establish a network of contacts through which we plan to continue to serve in the areas of discipleship and church planting in the future.
After a process of discernment and training, my family and I have committed ourselves as NAMS Companions. Our vision for the future is to help make disciples of Jesus Christ in Egypt and to plant churches in Northern Africa. This is not an easy area for ministry, but we trust that God is opening a door and has invited us to cooperate with Him in this work.
* Not their real names
Hadmed (identity obscured) with NAMS companions Ivan and Mary Ruiz in Egypt.
‘I have to leave. Please look after my family.’ Tears rolled down his face as Shaun* told me his decision to run away. Agents from his country were after him. They had twice tried to kidnap him.
As a refugee in Bangkok, Thailand, Shaun was ostensibly under the protection of the United Nations, but they could afford him little help. So he turned to us for help – to All Nations, the NAMS base in Bangkok that he was a part of. He entrusted the well-being of his family to the only community he could trust.
Persecuted because he belonged to a minority people group in a country where a bloody civil war had raged, Shaun once spent 21 months in jail where he was regularly interrogated in what was tantamount to torture. Though the courts cleared him of any wrongdoing and he was finally released, he faced continued harassments and threats. In 2011, he escaped to Bangkok with his family.
He had become a believer in prison through reading a Bible his father had given to him. Shaun subsequently joined us and became a key leader working among asylum seekers and refugees from his nation, seeking to help them become disciples of Jesus, as he had.
But now, the threat of forced repatriation to his country had put all of this in jeopardy. We wondered how his family would cope if he left them, and so we pleaded with him to re-consider while looking desperately for another way out for them. But a week later, Shaun was gone.
I would hear from him sporadically through short e-mails and even once through a Skype call with him from an internet café in an unknown city. We prayed desperately and provided as best we could for his terrified family over seemingly endless months.
Finally, in 2016, after a long journey involving cross-continental travel and people smuggling, I heard afresh from him. By God’s grace, Shaun had been received as a bona fide refugee into a country in Europe.
With the help of All Nations, his family was soon accepted by the same country and reunited with him, where they are now happily settled and thriving. I keep in touch with him and have been encouraging him to continue on as a disciple of Jesus to do all he learned from us.
This is the on-going work of all base communities, companions, and frankly, faithful Christians everywhere. To seek to bless, help and support those in and outside our communities who are lost, hopeless and helpless without our Saviour and Lord Jesus, so that the Kingdom of God may come in their lives. Through it all, we seek to make disciples made who can likewise make disciples themselves, as Shaun is doing.
* Shaun is not his real name.
Shaun (extreme right – face obscured) with NAMS Companions Manik Corea and Isaac Lasky in Bangkok in 2013.
For fifty years I lived in Cuba, the land of my birth. During that time, no one spoke to me about God or spiritual things.
In 2006, I moved to Temuco, Chile, to join my son who was already living there. My heart was empty and without direction, and my home seemed to be filled with hopelessness and anguish. I searched desperately for answers.
One day, I met a man called Andrés in the neighborhood. He greeted me and we chatted. This man, Andrés*, turned out to be a man of God who, with patience, listened to my desperate questions. One evening, he told me something that unlocked the door of my heart to God: ‘Mercy, till now, you have only demonstrated your inability to manage your life. Why don’t you give your heavy backpack of concerns to God?’
Three day later, I was born again as a child of God, and everything in the world seemed different. I was ready to give my life to God.
Back in Cuba, I started sharing and talking about my newfound happiness and faith with my family and friends. Some didn’t believe me; others questioned whether I had changed (since outwardly I look the same). But I knew that everything had changed for me since I met Jesus.
Some of them soon discovered that God could change them too. It did not surprise me since I have learned in my own experience what God our Father is capable of doing in his sovereignty!
Life in La Habana, Cuba is not easy and many problems remain. The sun burns hard sometimes but our strength through Christ grows more than ever. Today, I meet with Christians of different denominations and l am able to love and serve together with them despite our differences. The influence of the NAMS base community in Temuco, called ALP (The Light of the Word), is great and deep in me. The truth of God’s word has brought light and life, and our prayers are heard!
When I was a new believer, I used to ask more than I thanked God for. Now, I thank him everyday and ask what He wants for me to do and how He wants me to live. Thank you Father God, for your love and life, for laughter and tears and for making me into someone you could use for your glory.
(* Andrés Casanueva is the NAMS team leader of ALP base community in Temuco, Chile. He is also the regional leader of NAMS for all of Latin America. )
Mercy Carbonelle divides her time between Cuba and Chile. She has been trained as a NAMS leader and with her husband Richard, are helping to plant and lead a small NAMS community in Cuba.
NAMS was founded to call Christians everywhere to obey the final command of Jesus: to make disciples by going to all nations, baptizing and teaching them to obey all Jesus commanded.
NAMS companions seek to do this, starting wherever God’s placed them. One example of this happened over the Christmas season just past in Nepal. Our NAMS leader for the Himalayan/Tibetan Peoples, Pastor Tek Prasad Rijal, with substantial help from NAMS supporters, was able to help Christians and churches in Nepal organize country-wide Christmas events.
Over the Christmas period he worked with local churches, schools and orphanages to help them demonstrate practically the love of Christ. Teams of local Christians blessed schools, churches, and orphanages with sports equipment, Christmas cards, warm clothes, educational materials, first-aid boxes, diaries and calendars for teachers, and a Christmas meal. They also performed skits, dances, and songs which told the Christmas story. In some schools and orphanages they were even allowed to give short messages and invite those present to join the local church Christmas services – an invitation that many accepted! This program has led to open doors into schools and orphanages.
Life at the moment is by no means easy for Nepali Christians. Proselytizing people of other religions is now illegal under Nepal’s new constitution. Hindu nationalist groups are beginning to prosecute and attack Christians as they try to combat the explosive growth of the church in Nepal. However, no law can legislate against the saving love of God from being shared and told!
NAMS, through Pastor Tek and the regional church co-ordinators he works with, is helping and calling the Nepali Church to remain faithful to the One who has ultimate authority over Nepal and all nations. Their 2016 Christmas program is one example of how they are seeking to reach and make disciples of all people in their communities.
Please pray for us and pastor Tek that together, we may continue to make disciples, raise up leaders and send church-planters out to other unreached regions in Nepal and other nations in their region.