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Editorial: Multiplying Disciples

At a recent mission partnership celebration, we hosted two of our Multiply mission workers from Thailand, Jon Esau and Pastor Chaloerm. In a posture that we are taking with our partners around the world, Jon is serving Chaloerm’s vision of seeing churches planted and communities transformed in northern Thailand. The two of them model an effective partnership. 

Jon and Chaloerm shared a touching story about a local Thai woman named Auntie Em who came to them with terminal cancer. Chaloerm shared the Gospel with her and her husband (even though he wanted nothing to do with Jesus initially). After the couple opened their hearts and received the Gospel message, Chaloerm asked if local doctors, monks or witchdoctors had been able to help Em’s condition. “No,” the couple said. So Chaloerm prayed for healing in the name of Jesus. That very night, God did a miracle and Em was healed of cancer. 

Now Auntie Em is actively sharing the life and power of Jesus with her neighbors, proclaiming the hope of the Gospel and praying for healing from sickness and disease. Despite opposition, this couple is seeing a new church birthed in their village under Chaloerm’s faithful guidance. Even though Em is Thai and Chaloerm is Khmu, a marginalized people group in Thailand, they are working together for the glory of God. I love how Jon is faithfully investing in Chaloerm, and how Chaloerm is faithfully investing in people like Auntie Em, and how God is multiplying the impact of the Gospel in northern Thailand. 

Our vision continues to be “holistic church planting that transforms communities among the least reached.” Increasingly, that vision is being accomplished through partnerships with mission leaders from around the world who are reaching their own people with the Gospel. Many of our missionaries are serving these local leaders in their vision and calling, and connecting the church here (in North America) with the church there. We also recognize that many from among the least reached are coming to North America for refuge and a better life, and so we believe that mission is now both local and global. Living this one mission—local, national and global—is God’s invitation to all Christ followers, not just for the few who travel and live far away.

The foundation of fruitful mission is healthy disciples of Christ, living and sharing the Gospel in all of life. This is Christ’s call for all of us! Some disciples are also called to be missional leaders who call, equip and send others into effective mission. Every local church can function in that way, and together we can work to send missional leaders to serve the least reached around the world. In our FOCUS Apprenticeship training program, we have trained nine new long-term missionaries from seven different countries (see photo on pages 8-9).

One of our FOCUS participants is Tomas Vidal (read his story on p. 6). When Trever and Joan Godard began discipleship-in-mission training with Colombian young people twenty-five years ago, Tomas joined their program. His life was changed forever in those nine months. Today, he and his wife Melody are headed for Guadalajara, Mexico where they will join the leadership team of the Matthew Training Center, a ministry that was started by the Godards to train missional leaders to serve among the least reached. Trever and Joan have invested their lives in making disciples who make disciples. Now, their disciples, Tomas and Melody, are doing the same thing. It’s the same pattern and passion for multiplication that Paul shared with Timothy (in 2 Timothy 2:2).

As we continue to learn the value of walking together in humility and mutual submission, we are investing in global church partnerships. The challenges are significant as different parts of the body of Christ work together. Paul calls us to healthy interdependence when he reminds us, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a part of it”                (1 Corinthians 12:27). As we serve together, we need to honor each other’s unique gifts and learn to love one another deeply. For an example of another effective cross-cultural partnership, please watch the video about our team in Burundi and their relationship with a local leader and his thriving church-planting ministry (multiply.net/together/burundi). 

In North America, recent shifts have caused us to move closer together as an MB family in ways we have not experienced before. Multiply is working with the Canadian MB Conference, including provincial leadership and other conference agencies on an integrated mission strategy as part of the new collaborative model. We are also working with the USMB Conference to integrate and welcome many new immigrant churches from Congo and other diaspora groups into our church family. The Congolese that are now immigrating to America and planting churches are the spiritual grandchildren of early American missionaries like AA Janzen. This is a story of mission that stretches over one hundred years and is now coming full circle. 

Together, we desire to be disciples who make disciples, both here and around the world. This past year, we mobilized and trained 1400 young people through our short-term mission training programs like SOAR, ACTION, and TREK. Those young people were challenged to learn and serve alongside the church both in North America and around the world. The newly developed PEAK program for early retirees is opening up service and disciple-making opportunities for experienced leaders in the local church who have so much to offer (multiply.net/peak). As well, our Multiply Marketplace Ministry is mobilizing and discipling business leaders to be ambassadors for God’s kingdom in the marketplace both locally and globally (multiply.net/m3). 

The invitation to multiply healthy disciples takes us back to the model of Jesus. Jesus taught by experience and it’s still the best way to learn. As we spend time practicing and experiencing the spiritual disciplines, sharing the Gospel, learning cross-culturally, and serving in community, we ourselves are transformed. 

Our prayer continues to be—that God would unite us as disciples of Christ so that the world may know Jesus. Can we join hands and live this message together?

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