FROM EVERYWHERE, TO EVERYONE.
HISTORICALLY, world mission has been assumed to be a Western, middle-class endeavor. As such, it has a mixed track record, often imposing culture and utilizing paternalistic, destructive approaches towards communities which cross-cultural workers were meant to serve. But the problem is not mission itself, or even cross-cultural mission specifically, but how it has been done. Our God, by nature, is missional—always seeking to expand His Kingdom throughout the world. Therefore, God’s church must also be missionally minded, extending the love and salvation of Jesus and advancing His holistic Kingdom. Mission is the responsibility of the whole church—not just the Western church, and not just the wealthy church. At its heart, mission is about partnership, collaboration, learning, and mutual transformation.
We believe that God calls people from everywhere to everyone. The church is exploding in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Many of these believers desire to see transformation come in their own urban centers, and many are also called beyond their borders to join God’s larger mission in the world. As Servant Partners, we send small teams to live incarnationally in urban marginalized communities, and we partner with national organizations doing the same. The transformation of the world’s urban poor communities is the calling of the global church—both those born into comfort and those raised in poverty. In the following stories, you will see how God is calling people who may not fit the missionary stereotype to lead the next generation of missions.
Thank you for your prayers and financial support of Servant Partners. We are blessed to be a part of God’s journey of hope in the midst of poverty.
In Jesus’ Hope,
Derek and Lisa Engdahl
When Families Know Shalom
P’ KAEW'S EXPERIENCE OF POVERTY TRANSFORMED INTO COMPASSION
"There is a lot of injustice in Thai society, and people experiencing poverty aren’t able to access the rights and resources that they need. I want to see justice for families in these communities.”
DADCHANEE ARISO, known fondly to many as P’ Kaew, was born to a family suffering poverty in the province of Nan, Thailand. Her memories of childhood remind her of the lack she suffered, and left her with a single motivation: “Get an education and work very hard to have a better life than my parents had.”
“I sought stability for my family through hard work, but the harder I tried, the further I seemed from a better life,” she reflected. “I finally realized the truth when my family failed, and I saw that human love isn’t enough to sustain a family. I came to know Jesus and saw that He was enough.”
God transformed P’ Kaew’s financial anxiety into a deep burden for her family and others. “I shifted from thinking mostly about myself and my own economic situation, to having compassion for others struggling in the same situation.”
Since then, P’ Kaew has partnered with God for 20 years of ministry. She currently works with the local government and the Community Organizations Development Institute to support people-driven community development. She is also a ministry partner with Servant Partners, and has worked with Servant Partners staff Suzy Triplett to co-found and lead the Santisuk (Shalom) Families Program in Bangkok, Thailand. This one-year, Gospel-centered mentoring program holistically develops families to care for themselves, become financially stable, resolve interpersonal conflict, and serve their community with love and generosity.
A Bridge Across Borders
HOW OMAR HELPED CLOSE DIVIDES IN HIS CITY & BEYOND
East Los Angeles, California
"Jesus said that they would know his disciples by how we love one another. Diversity of culture, income, and ethnicity in ministry expresses the fullness of that love. That closes our cultural divides."
EIGHT-YEAR-OLD OMAR COVA CROSSED THE BORDER into Mexico to visit family, just a few years after he had first left it for the U.S. “I had never seen that level of poverty before,” he recounted. “I saw a lot of kids my age selling things to fend for themselves, and it made me cry. It was before I knew God, but it was the moment that God started to change my heart—there are people that are struggling, and I can’t ignore them.”
Omar grew up in Downtown Los Angeles, California, where he and his family worked in the garment district. He and his brother helped sew, iron, and sort clothes from a young age. “Summers had no summer camp for me,” he laughed, remembering his childhood. While running deliveries for his parents, Omar witnessed the city’s poverty firsthand and was again overcome with compassion for his neighbors.
These seeds that God planted in Omar sprouted when he gave his life to Jesus at the age of 19 with a simple prayer: “I’ll follow you anywhere. Just don’t make my life boring.”
Although Omar wanted to pursue ministry abroad, Jesus called him to remain in Southern California and be a “bridge” to his neighbors. For 10 years, Omar lived and worked in a local urban marginalized community, mentoring youth, breaking up fights, celebrating quinceaneras, helping addicts recover, and experiencing a wide spectrum of joy and pain in urban ministry. “I learned that I’m not saving nobody,” he said. “I just have to plant and water seeds, and have the wisdom to see how God is transforming people.”
The First To Go
A MOVEMENT OF LATIN AMERICANS TO THE MIDDLE EAST
Middle East • North Africa
This is the only instance that we know of where the urban poor in one continent are now the leaders of an urban poor ministry among the unreached in another continent. This diversity in mission is countercultural and economically fragile, but because of Jesus, it works.
WHEN SARA OVIEDO BECAME A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST, she felt called to leave her home of Argentina to be a missionary in the Middle East—but faced considerable resistance. Sara’s family had tirelessly labored to climb out of poverty, and opposed her decision to be a Christian because the religion bore the stigma of being a religion of the poor. Local religious institutions doubted her capability and credentials because of her family and class background. And while Argentine churches would send families and single men for missions, there was little precedent for sending single women to a place like the Middle East.
Zach Powell also grew up in Argentina, but as the child of missionaries. He felt called to work among those who had never heard the gospel and were marginalized by poverty. He joined the Servant Partners internship when it first began in 1995, and later moved to North Africa to pioneer a community center among an urban poor Muslim community in 2002. Because of his upbringing, Zach saw firsthand the potential of the Latin American church to send workers with cultural similarities to communities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Also in 2002, other Servant Partners staff began living and working in an urban marginalized community in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. At a meeting of pastors and churches in Nueva Suyapa, one of the poorest communities in the city, they learned about the community’s vision to send Hondurans to minister among unreached people groups in Africa. Soon after, Servant Partners received a formal invitation to come alongside these pastors and form a new sending agency called Puerta Al Mundo (PAM).
TWO YEARS INTO OUR 10-YEAR VISION 2030, we have seen God move in profound ways.
Local leaders have been empowered to pursue lives of sustainable urban ministry in domestic and international capacities.
Staff have gathered in seven different regions from Africa, Asia, Latin American, and the US to collaborate, initiate new works, and encourage one another.
We are bridging national movements of urban poor church planting and community transformation in Canada, the Caribbean, Colombia, Ethiopia, Mexico, South Asia, and the US. Leaders of these movements are beginning to collaborate with one another on how to extend God’s Kingdom to urban poor communities around the world.
You can read more and partner with our Vision 2030 by visiting servantpartners.org/vision2030.
BUILD, STRENGTHEN, AND BRIDGE GOD'S MOVEMENT IN URBAN POOR COMMUNITIES AROUND THE WORLD
Watch our newest videos showcasing who we are and the Nine Signs of a Transforming Community in English and Spanish at youtube.com/servantpartners.