Teamwork Without Borders
By Jeff Turnbough
At the beginning of the 20th century, 90% of the world’s Christians lived in the Western and Northern Hemispheres. As the 21st century began,
75% of Christians live in the Eastern and Southern Hemispheres, or the “global south.”1
With this huge shift in the Christian population, we rightly ask ourselves questions such as: where does missions begin? Where does it end? Who are the senders? Who are the recipients? Today, the work of missions consists of believers everywhere working together to reach least reached peoples everywhere. They may be located on the other side of the world, or they may be next door.
The Great Commission is too big for anyone to accomplish alone, and too important for all of us not to work together to fulfill. That means small churches to mega-churches, small denominations to large ones, and Christians around the world must be intentional about finding ways to work together.
In 2005, Free Will Baptist International Missions (FWBIM) joined the International Training Alliance—a group of evangelical mission agencies working together to offer practical leadership training for missionary and national leaders around the world. In addition to the unique training ITA offers, a core principle insists on demographic diversity for trainer teams and participants. Coming from different groups and nations, the courses reflect a Kingdom picture of redeemed people from every nation, race, and language.
Leaders in Free Will Baptist International Missions have embraced these 21st century realities by working with others (like ITA) and forming international missionary teams.
In Bulgaria, local believers Trif and Vanya Trifonov joined our FWBIM team. They had already been involved in Christian ministry for two decades, and came to us with much life and ministry experience. Our work in Bulgaria began with an international couple—Tim Awtrey from the States and Lydia from Bulgaria. We added another couple from the U.S., then added a couple from Bulgaria, and recently a fourth couple from the States joined the team. The international missionary team works together in a joint effort to plant churches in Bulgaria. The Trifonovs are completely bilingual, which facilitates working relationships within the team and communications with supporters in the States. (They visited churches in the States during the summer of 2015.)
In Spain, International Missions is collaborating with the national federation of Free Will Baptist churches to support Manuel and Noemi Garcia, a young couple working with our missionary team in Malaga. Noemi is the daughter of local Free Will Baptist pastor and leader, José Manuel Parrón. From childhood, Noemi sensed God calling her to be a missionary. After completing her studies, she met and married Manuel, an immigrant from Venezuela, and an active believer in her church. The Free Will Baptist work in Spain is too small to support a missionary alone. Collaborating to send this couple brings our churches in Spain together to participate with U.S. efforts to extend God’s Kingdom in this part of the world. This is a beautiful picture of international missions in today’s global context.
The biblical value of interdependence compels us to look beyond nationality, language, and finances to do Kingdom work. Working together internationally allows believers to focus a variety of resources on common tasks. All believers possess unique, God-given gifts to contribute to His work. IM is committed to enhance and multiply our efforts to work together with the Body of Christ to fulfill the Great Commission, internationally.
1 The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Philip Jenkins
ITA By the Numbers
2,449 missionary participants in over 200 nations
100 different mission agencies.
Eight courses for 2016: Cambodia, Cameroon, Germany, Zambia, Peru, Philippines, China, and Thailand, with Free Will Baptists involved in each session.
Truly International at IM
Of 76 missionaries at FWBIM,
10 have a non-U.S. passport:
Rejane Eagleton, Lydia Awtrey, Lydie Teague, Trif and Vanya Trifonov, Lázaro Riesgo and Ariadna Riesgo (Iglesias), Manuel and Noemi Garcia (Parrón), and Myriam Le Louarn.
We also celebrate that five MKs
(who are internationals in the truest sense) currently serves with IM:
Kenneth Eagleton, Matthew Turnbough,
Joel Teague, Doug Bishop,
and Katie Speer.