When my husband, George, and I began missions in this part of the world nearly 29 years ago, one of our goals was to raise up local pastors and missionaries, people who could speak the heart language of those they minister to.
But God did not ask us to do this alone. He blessed us with friends and fellow Foursquare missionaries, Sou and Ted Olbrich, in nearby Cambodia.
A huge aspect of the Olbrichs’ ministry is discipling and releasing locals across Southeast Asia to teach the gospel, led by the Holy Spirit. “This isn’t just something that foreigners can do,” says Sou, who was born a princess in a neighboring nation not open to the gospel. “This is something God wants you to do.”
When one woman came to Sou and Ted, God healed her. Then, she went back to her island village, blessed with an evangelistic spirit. Today, her entire village of about 100,000 people has come to know Jesus.
Another big part of Sou and Ted’s ministry has been caring for orphans. In the past 12 years, more than 18,000 children have been cared for by Foursquare Children of Promise. These young men and women were raised to know Jesus. Now, they’re looking at their nation, saying, “We want our people to know Jesus Christ.”
But what happens naturally in orphan homes hasn’t been as simple outside of them. We had to ask ourselves if we were equipping believers to know the Holy Spirit’s full joy and power. We started looking at different discipleship models to fit various cultural needs.
Some aspects of discipleship look different as we travel from nation to nation within the region. In one particular area, the police go to church services, wait until someone comes to Christ, and then arrest that person. So those churches have started pairing a new believer with a mentor the same day they’re saved.
Their mentor sits them down and tells them: “When you get arrested—not if, but when—this is what the police are going to do to you. And this is what Jesus Christ has promised you.”
The church has recognized that new believers must have someone to walk with them through challenges they’ll face as a result of choosing Jesus. We must be more deliberate about discipleship so that people have the Word and community that will allow them to process losing a job or a loved one without walking away.
You know, life’s so challenging at times. God’s children need to know they haven’t been abandoned, that everything we do, we do by the power of the Holy Spirit.
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Joyce Butron is a Foursquare Missions International area missionary to Southeast Asia. Story is as told to Rachel Chimits, a writer in Reno, Nev.