Could Your Church “Adopt” a People?
Here's What One Congregation Has Learned
Southern California and Europe are miles apart--- geographically and culturally. Yet one San Diego-area church's dreams for world evangelization bring the two regions together in remarkable ways.
In the fall of 1985, Emmanuel Faith Community Church (EFCC) hosted a regional Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course. Thirty people in the church were challenged by what they learned. In January 1986, they began to meet weekly, praying for God's vision for them in world evangelization.
During the next few months, God encouraged them to focus on the unreached, particularly Muslims. Harry Larson, EFCC missions pastor, began investigating unreached groups whom EFCC might "adopt" to plant a church. One people arrested the groups' attention.
"We were amazed by the many Kurds around the world," says Larson. "They seemed an ideal unreached people to target." Not only are most Kurdish communities scattered in countries presumably "closed" to missionaries (primarily Turkey, Iran, Iraq and the USSR), but a sizable Kurdish population works in western Europe, accessible to evangelism. If reached for Christ, they may return to these countries and effectively reach their own people. Patrick Johnstone (author of Operation World) estimates that only two or three individuals among Turkey's eight million Kurds are Christians.
After further prayer, EFCC decided to adopt the Kurds. Before the official adoption, leaders in the church sent a fact-finding team to Europe in August 1986, and then spent nine months educating the church about Kurds and seeking approval.
EFCC wanted to give not only prayer and financial support toward reaching the Kurds, but also some of its own members. The church approached a mission agency working with Muslims about recruiting a team to work with relocated Kurds in western Europe. The agency had wanted to begin such a work for years, and was happy to partner with EFCC in drawing up a strategy document to recruit this team. The strategy calls for reaching Kurds in a specific European nation, to ultimately plant an indigenous church.
"EFCC should clearly understand the serious commitment it is accepting," the official document states. Leaders in the church took the commitment so seriously they began asking those they felt had appropriate gifts to consider being missionaries to the Kurds. In late January 1989, EFCC sent one of its own couples to western Europe to begin German and Kurmanji language study. Others are praying about joining the Kurdish team. The church also will help finance the translation of the Jesus film into Kurmanji.
The relationship between EFCC and the mission agency has been productive and encouraging. Because of the mission's doctrinal compatibility, field-based strategy, strong focus toward Muslim outreach, and commitment to traditional sending methods, EFCC has trusted its leadership and guidance. The mission has been very flexible in offering help in the recruiting and training of candidates for the Kurdish team.
EFCC does not intend to center its entire missions program around its Kurdish team, but this outreach will occupy a special place in the church's life. "A sense of ownership comes when you send your own people out to reach a particular people group for whom you've prayed for so long," says an EFCC member who actively attended the Perspectives class and prayer meetings.
Mike and Sue Olson*, also members of the church, agree. They are so affected by the Kurdish adoption process that Mike says, "I've committed the next ten years to Muslim evangelism. Our friends who went to Europe are central to that vision. They're people I know, so I'll pray for them and write them." Sue prays daily for them, and says, "I'll be praying for the Kurds the rest of my life." This spring the Olsons move to Oregon to begin seminary for the pastorate. "I'll take this (adoption) concept into my pastorate," says Mike. "This is a do-able kind of thing. It doesn't take a large church. It reduces the 16,000 unreached people groups into bite-size proportions."
Your church can learn from EFCC's experience in adopting an unreached people. You may be unable to send a research team overseas, or quickly send a couple as missionaries, but you might begin to pray for an unreached people, and support missionaries in your denomination to work among that people group. Perhaps a mission agency working among an unreached people of interest to your church could help you adopt one of its missionaries.
If your church is considering an "adoption", Larson suggests, "Do your homework. Research the people group thoroughly. And pray fervently. That's an indispensable part of the process."
*Names have been changed.