Most of the conversions have come through a net of personal and family relationships.
In less than seven years, the spiritual harvest of Edwin and Carolyn Kerr has bordered on the phenomenal. Between 600 and 800 persons have made Christian commitments through their ministry, which is based on the 32,000-student campus of the University of Costa Rica in San Jose. Most of these new believers are participating in 18 Bible study and prayer groups led by the Kerrs or people they trained.
The Kerrs had considered an organization to preserve and disciple these new Christians. And in this day of the parachurch group, many people were asking for one. “But we’re rolling in organizatins here,” said Carolyn. The Kerrs are affiliated with the Latin America Mission.
“Since almost all the new converts are involved in local churches, and in leadership positions with other Christian groups, we would be hurting their own outreach where they are by taking them out,” added Edwin. The two see their work as serving the local churches: “Basically, what we’re doing is providing trained, discipled people to the national church.”
Parents of three children, the oldest aged 13, the couple came to Costa Rica about eight years ago to attend Spanish language school. Edwin, who holds a physics doctorate from New York University, and Carolyn, with a master’s in chemistry from Columbia, wanted to find a way to integrate their science with evangelism. They found it as part of MINAMUNDO (A Ministry to the Student and Professional World). The group’s 14 or so couples in Latin America develop ministries to students and professionals—often through work and social contacts. They began a campus outreach even during language school, and Edwin joined the faculty of the university’s physics department. It was there that things started happening about five years ago.
Fellow physics professor Luz Soltero, divorced, lonely, and depressed, had opted for early retirement—more or less, to “just go home and die,” said Edwin. In conversation, he told her of a physicist he knew whom God had delivered from a similar depression. He ended up sharing a simple plan of salvation, and asked to pray with Soltero that within a week God would miraculously show her that He loved her.
Soltero, who later said she had listened only because of her respect for Kerr as a physicist, had doubts—especially the part about setting a time limit. “I just told her, ‘I’ve seen God do lots of miracles, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind doing one more for you,’ ” Edwin said.
The mathematics may have been a little off, but the results were right on: within 10 days, Soltero accepted Christ as her personal Savior. Her depression vanished, and she became an instant evangelist. Within three months, she had led to Christ her daughter, two sons, her ex-husband, and then another son. Next, she started witnessing to former work associates. Edwin’s research shows that the ensuing chain reaction yielded exactly 100 conversions in two years’ time. (Soltero’s story is described in a forthcoming book.)
Indirectly through Soltero some months later, the university experienced a mini-awakening. Soltero’s son Beto led his girlfriend Cristina to Christ. An all-star volleyball player, she asked the Kerrs to come to her home to present the gospel to some of her friends. Edwin remembers, “When we arrived, sitting in the living room were about 25 jocks—about half of the Costa Rica men’s and women’s all-star volleyball teams in international competition.”
The Kerrs led the group through a seven-week evangelistic Bible study, which is essentially an expanded version of a tract they wrote. Both are designed for a Roman Catholic audience—the Central American nation being at least 90 percent nominal Catholics.
At the study’s conclusion, 18 of the 25 made Christian commitments. “Then, things started exploding all over the place,” said Carolyn. The new Christians witnessed to brothers and sisters and friends. Some brought their parents to the Kerrs, not knowing themselves how to present the plan of salvation. Indeed, most of the conversions in the Kerrs’ ministry have come through a net of personal and family relationships. This is explained in that all students live off campus and with closely knit family structures.
The Kerrs have found that new Christians do the best job of evangelism: they still have plenty of non-Christian contacts, and enthusiasm. They only lack Christian training. Often these young Christians will host a gathering of non-Christian friends and invite an older Christian to speak to them. Edwin calls this “gathering the fish.” Extending his analogy, he says, “In this type of evangelistic approach, you’re catching the fish who go around in schools. Now, we have trained other people to work the nets. In the future, Carolyn and I hope to reach out to the ‘big fish’—the loners, independent persons like Luz Soltero—which takes more time, but in the long run may produce even greater fruit.”
This will be done through the couple’s many social, school, and professional contacts. “All loners can be reached by somebody,” says Edwin, a low-key evangelizer, known for his dry “Chile Ticos”—Costa Rican jokes. “It’s a matter of letting it be known who you are and what you stand for. Whatever kind of business or profession we get into, we usually find people who can be won for Christ.”
H. Wilbert Norton, former dean of the Wheaton Graduate School, will succeed Lois McKinney as executive director of the Committee to Assist Ministry Education Overseas. McKinney will become professor of cross-cultural communication and missions at Wheaton Graduate School.
Everett Hunt, Jr., is the new president of OMS International, succeeding Wesley Duewel, who becomes special assistant to the president for evangelism and intercession. Hunt was formerly a professor at the Seoul (Korea) Theological Seminary.
Dee Jepsen, wife of U.S. Senator Roger W. Jepsen (R-Iowa), is President Reagan’s chief liaison for women’s issues. Before her appointment, Jepsen worked as a volunteer on her husband’s staff, analyzing family and social issues.
W. Melvin Adams has been named executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Adams has served on the board of trustees at various times since 1960.
Seoul Finds Strong Missions Pulse In Third World
Conscious of the fact that Asia (less than 3 percent Christian) is the most unevangelized region in the world, more than 100 delegates from 15 countries met in Seoul, Korea, in August for the third triennial convention of the Asia Missions Association (AMA). David Cho, AMA general secretary and director of the Korea International Mission, convened the conference, labeled Seoul ’82.
To begin the meetings, Cho and Samuel Soon-il Kim, professor of Asian studies and director of the Asian ministries at Fuller Theological Seminary, raised the question, “Can Asian missionaries effectively proclaim the gospel cross culturally while using Western thought forms and garb?” The lively discussion following indicated that any foreign approach, whether Western or Korean, if perceived by the hearer as foreign, hinders the communication of the message.
Another issue raised was that of missionary cooperation. Minoru Okuyama, general secretary of the Japan Antioch Mission, while recognizing the Asian responsibility to world missions, stated, “I dare to set two aims of evangelism in Asia. Preach the gospel to all Asians. Make disciples of all Asian nations ansd territories.” In order to assist the Asian church in achieving these aims, he suggested several areas for missionary cooperation: formation of an Asian missiological information center; a special department within AMA to maintain contact with and offer information to Asian missions agencies; and a new training center for preparation of missionaries in conjunction with other sending agencies. While these goals were generally accepted by all, little attention was devoted to their implementation.
From the United States, Ralph Winter, general director of the U.S. Center for World Mission, presented three types of outreach:
• Evangelism, where believers reach their own kind of people, often in their neighborhoods.
• Domestic missions, where believers help nationals in other countries to reach their own people.
• Frontier missions, where believers deliberately go to groups that do not yet have any kind of church.
Concerning the last type of outreach, Winter stated, “The strategic task of mission is the initiation of a people movement towards Christ within untouched peoples. Evangelism is the task of the church once established. Mission is classically the task of getting the church established in the first place.” Winter encouraged the third type of outreach as that most needed in missions today.
Another delegate, one of four from Latin America, reviewed how extensive Winter’s type-three outreach had become within the non-Western world. Pastor Jonathan Santos, president of Brazil’s Antioch Mission (no relationship to Japan’s Antioch Mission), said that based upon the O.C. Ministries 1980 worldwide survey, there were 13,000 cross-cultural Third World missionaries, of which 38 percent were Asian. Compared with an earlier survey in 1972, the total number of type-three non-Western workers worldwide had grown 282 percent.
Reports were presented on individual Asian countries. Daniel Mastapha, a Methodist pastor and missionary leader in the Fiji Islands, stated that there “the highest challenge for churches is reaching the 49 percent Indian population comprised of 334,000 Hindus and 45,000 Muslims.” He noted that the Methodist church is involved in cross-cultural foreign missions with “20 families working as missionaries outside Fiji in the Papua New Guinea highlands, the Solomon Islands, and in northern Australia among the aborigines. Also, two families work among the white Australians. One family is in a circuit in London, and another is about to take up appointment in London. There is a family working in Thailand. Next year we are sending one family to New Zealand and two ministers to West India.”
Another informative national report was by B. Jeyaraj, chairman of the Church Growth Missionary Movement and professor at the Tamilnadu Theological Seminary in Madurai, India. He stated that India has fielded more than 1,808 indigenous missionaries, approximately 973 from independent or interdenominational missions and 835 from denominational groups. Many Indian leaders expect an increase to about 2,250 missionaries by the end of 1985. “The present problem of Indian missions,” he said, “is getting quality workers and training them.” Also, although all these missionaries are working cross culturally, “only two or three mission societies and boards have sent their missionaries overseas.” Most work among other tribes and peoples within India. Nevertheless, the challenge of “reaching the people of other nations and of migrated Indians has already been raised.”
One of the primary goals for Seoul ’82 was the formation of several AMA affiliates. The independent yet affiliated committees or organizations would assist the Asian missionary community by collecting missiological information, promoting candidate orientation, and coordinating certain areas of interagency cooperation.
This goal, clearly stated in the preconvention material each delegate received, was rarely referred to in the first five days of the seven-day convention. During the last few sessions, this desire for additional missionary structure was again emphasized. Cho and the other members of the ama sponsoring committee made it plain that such groups, though not now a reality, are important for Asian evangelization.
With Seoul ’82 now past and this particular goal unrealized, one might ask, “What was actually accomplished? Can anything lasting come from a meeting of an association that merely reflects the desires of its members?”
Perhaps the lasting contribution is what permeated all presentations and discussions: Asian missions are not small and emerging, but mature and strong. There are an estimated 6,000 type-three Asian workers serving with some 210 indigenous Asian agencies. At Seoul ’82, one delegate represented a missionary society founded over 100 years ago. Several represented societies 50 or 75 years old. The collective experience and insight among the participants demonstrated the strengths of Asian missions. Although not without problems or difficulties, Asian believers are heavily involved in the working out of the Great Commission.
The information presented at Seoul ’82 will be disseminated and used by mission leaders worldwide. But what was proclaimed the loudest was the mature ability of Asian missiologists themselves to reflect, plan, and strategize for world evangelization.
LAWRENCE E. KEYES
The World Council of Churches continues to give priority to funding southern African organizations in its Program to Combat Racism grants. Grants for this year, announced in Geneva, Switzerland, last month, total $489,500, down from outlays of a couple of years ago. But almost half the money is earmarked for South African dissident groups, the African National Congress and the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, and for the Namibian organization swapo (South West Africa People’s Organization).
A Northern Ireland IRA gunman turned himself in as a result of his conversion to faith in Christ recently, and was jailed for life. Kevin Joseph McGrady, 26, confessed to three murders and multiple murder attempts. He had left Ulster in 1976 in an effort to sever his link with the Irish Republican Army. While staying in an interdenominational hostel in the Netherlands, he was converted.
Iona, the tiny island from which Christianity spread into Britain, has been saved from commercial exploitation by an unlikely savior. He is Sir Hugh Fraser, owner of Harrod’s and other stores, who had lost a fortune at London’s gambling tables and scandalized Scotland with his marital affairs. Iona, between northeast Ireland and northwest Scotland, was the center used for introducing Christianity from Ireland to Britain, beginning with Columba in 563. Owned by the dukes of Argyll since 1695, it is being sold to meet $1 million owing in estate taxes. The new owner will preserve public access and can pay the taxes. The National Trust for Scotland will now begin restoration work on the twelfth-century abbey, where 48 Scottish and 14 other kings are buried.
The Vatican has gone halfway toward giving Opus Dei the standing of a religious order. Founded in Spain in 1928, Opus Dei has more than 70,000 members worldwide, mostly lay people. It is conservative, disciplined, austere in precepts, and a rival of the Jesuits, who have been in the vanguard of liberalism. The Second Vatican Council created the new status of “personal prelacy.” Opus Dei has since sought to be the first to gain that status, but was turned down by Pope Paul VI. Now Pope John Paul II, against the recommendation of a Vatican commission, has complied, making the Opus Dei head equivalent to the superior general of a religious order. But he denied the organization’s bid for autonomy from local church authorities.
Pope John Paul II has postponed his visit to Spain until after the country’s elections on October 28 to avoid involvement in the political campaigning. Although the visit, originally scheduled for October 14 to 22, is to be pastoral, Spanish bishops feared that any papal statements on topics such as terrorism, divorce, and religious education could be construed as political. Earlier, the crisis in Poland forced the Pope to cancel his visit there.
The prime minister of predominantly Roman Catholic Malta has attacked the Catholic church. Dom Mintoff called the Mediterranean island’s archbishop, Joseph Mercieca, a hypocrite, and asked that the Pope remove him from office. Apparently behind the diatribe was an August showdown over a traditional church holiday that Mintoff had abolished as a day off. Hundreds took it anyway. Businesses that closed had their licenses revoked, and state employees were suspended or dismissed.
The plot thickens as kgb agents pose as Bible smugglers, according to the German Friedensstimme mission, which has ties to the unregistered Baptists in the Soviet Union. The secret police, it reports, usually claim to be transporting literature on behalf of Christianin, the underground publishing house of Soviet Christians. In most cases, the supposed colporteurs said their vehicle had been attacked, that it had broken down, or that they were being watched, and asked for financial help and a “safe address of a Christian where they could hide and store literature.” The mission’s publication warned that many well-meaning believers had lost their savings in this way, and that house searches had been conducted immediately at the addresses disclosed on such occasions.
Radio Moscow referred to the “Siberian Seven” and to Billy Graham in a prime-time broadcast last summer. It referred to the “Pentecostalists” as part of a “sect” and explained that care must be taken before allowing them to emigrate to the U.S. since they could be mistreated there. It cited the “blood-curdling murders of Charles Manson’s sect” and the “bloodbath of Jonestown in Guyana” as examples of the perils. Allegations of lack of religious freedom in the USSR, the commentator continued, were unfounded. He then quoted the latest “unimpeachable witness,” Billy Graham: “I think there is a lot more freedom here than has been given the impression in the States because there are hundreds, even thousands of churches open.… Here the church is not a state church, it’s a free church.”
Local officials in southern Ethiopia illegally confiscated money, lumber, and corrugated metal roofing that a congregation had collected for a new church building. But the elders decided to rely on prayer and not go to court, according to SIM International. Shortly afterwards, an epidemic of dysentery struck the area. The officials, concluding they were the objects of divine retribution, met with the elders, asked forgiveness, returned all confiscated property, and requested the church to pray that God would end the epidemic. Prayer for local leaders has now become a weekly event for the congregation.
Churches recognized by the Chinese government continue to be opened. Shanghai’s seventh Protestant Three-Self church was reopened in July. A Protestant official said he hoped that two more churches would be reopened in the city by Christmas, and stated that the city will eventually have 20 Protestant places of worship. Although Shanghai has the most reopened churches, its pattern of reopenings is being duplicated in other cities.
Taiwan’s government has moved to restore communications with the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, with whom it has been at loggerheads for years. Last summer the ruling Guomintang party asked for a meeting with leaders of the church (composed mainly of native Taiwanese in contrast to the party, which is made up of transplanted mainlanders). They met in a six-hour session that the Taiwan Church News called “frank and helpful.” The denomination has strongly criticized the government, and its general secretary, Kao Chung-Ming, is in prison.
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