This is an article from the July-August 1997 issue: The Southern Baptist “Transformation”

Missions in a Suitcase

Visalia E-Free Church Shares Their Secrets for a Successful People Group Adoption

Missions in a Suitcase

When most people prepare to travel to another part of the world for a mission trip they pack a suitcase. When people at the Evangelical Free Church of Visalia, California want to take a mission trip they too pack a suitcase, but they travel in their minds and through prayer.

Missions In A Suitcase, is an innovation that Visalia has developed as part of their successful Adopt-A-People program. This church of 275 people proves that you don’t have to have a large church to be involved in world missions to unreached peoples. Visalia Evangelical Free has adopted the Kurdish people and a missionary family that is part of a team ministering to this indigenous Muslim people group. Saddam Hussein has been trying to exterminate these people for years, but the Kurds’ resilience and the power of prayer have helped preserve them and create breakthroughs for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Debbie Jump, Adopt-A-People coordinator for the Evangelical Free Church of Visalia, stresses the importance of a church having a long-term commitment to their people group: “Our commitment is to work with the Kurds until there is an evangelistic reproducing church in Kurdistan among them. Our church has been committed to praying for and giving to evangelistic work among the Kurds for five years now.”

Giving the Adoption Visibility

When the Adopt-A-People program started in Visalia, a large world map was mounted on wood, pointing out where the Visalia church was located and where Kurdistan is. Gold chains were placed on the two areas on the map and then the chains were padlocked together with the church understanding the lock would not be opened until a multiplying church was planted in Kurdistan.

The Visalia church members provide some financial support to a missionary family working with the Kurds along with giving their time in prayer and learning about their people group and other missions breakthroughs. Jump and others have focused on education among church members and their children to help insure a continued commitment to the program.

“We have about 40 families in our church involved in the Adopt-A-People program and many of them are home-schooling their children. They have found the Adopt-A-People Global Prayer Digest especially helpful in teaching their children about geography.” (Editor’s note: One of Jump’s favorite issues of the Global Prayer Digest was the one focused on immigrants from unreached people groups living and working in Los Angeles.)

Enter “the Suitcase”

Often the home schooling families will take the Missions Suitcase materials we’ve assembled and check them out of our church library. We loan the Missions Suitcase for extended periods of time to families so they can teach their children about missions.”

This suitcase contains world jigsaw puzzles, maps, missionary newsletters, electronic mail, music from different cultures, newspaper and magazine clippings and other materials to educate and mobilize families to pray about world missions. Jump also puts together a monthly missions newsletter to inform about 100 of the church members on a regular basis about progress on the mission field.

In addition to using the suitcase approach, the Sunday Children’s Church second hour class (for first through sixth graders) has devoted its curriculum to teaching lessons with a world focus. “During the month of Ramadan, we focused on Muslims,” said Jump.

Research, Persistence and Advocacy

Originally Jump had read about the Adopt-A-People program in Mission Frontiers, then prayed about and researched the idea for two years before approaching the church missions committee about adopting a people. Debra believes that in every adopting church there must be a key individual willing to take the initiative and ownership in order for churches to have a successful adoption experience: “If there are no people in a church that are convinced by God that adopting a people group is a way of fulfilling the Great Commission and that it’s a top priority, then adopting a people will just be one of many good things a church or missions committee does.”

Vision, Prayer and Networking

Even though success in adopting a people requires individuals who are, to some degree, visionary leaders, these individuals don’t have to do it alone. A church should be willing to network with other churches that have a similar vision. David Bryant of Concerts of Prayer has said that if individuals want to find God’s will for their lives they should ask themselves what God has given them a burden for and what groups or organizations are working in that area. If God hasn’t given you a burden for a part of the world or a people group, ask Him to and He will.

Debra says that adopting a people has been a stretching experience for the church. “...but I think it has given people a sense of doing something personal when it comes to missions.” And the three keys to success for any Adopt-A-People program according to Jump? “Vision, prayer and networking.”

Unexpected Encouragement

The church has enjoyed relating to the Kurds through the missionary family they support who is ministering among the Kurds. Sometimes this has even been a cause for excitement and a deeper sense of playing a crucial, world-changing role. For example, the head of the missionary family that the Visalia church supports recently served as a spokesman on ABC’s World News Tonight concerning conditions among the Kurdish people. This caused the church to further recognize the importance of their prayers for there missionary family, and for the Kurds.

Jump says that the more opportunities people have to see individuals from their people (like in the ABC story) or, to hear them speak in person, the more people can relate to the concept of unreached peoples and the idea of adopting a people group.

One of the greatest lessons that Jump thinks churches can learn from Visalia’s experience is: “Don’t wait until your church is bigger or richer before you adopt a people group. Make a commitment to God to do whatever your church can do in adopting a people and praying for them. I think it’s biblical for churches to adopt people groups so that the Great Commission can be completed soon and everyone in the world can hear the Gospel.


A Missions Primer is ESSENTIAL

All of our AAP-related staff would agree that the idea of adopting an unreached people group is a not a difficult concept to embrace —if—a church has been exposed to an up-to-date course on missions—like the Perspectives course. And, typically, churches with this kind of exposure are able to carry out an adoption with far greater speed and less frustration than those without it.

So, how do you get your missions committee to take the Perspectives course when its not even in your city? Perhaps you could initiate one. But, maybe it’s not practical for you to do at this time.

Other than Perspectives there happen to be a number of excellent mission studies. One of which we recommend highly due to its particular emphasis on adoption—namely, Vision for the Nations.

Not only is Vision for the Nations adoption oriented, it provides a Perspectives content of education and inspiration with a considerable emphasis on where to go for further help and what to do once the course is completed.

If this sounds like what you are needing and looking for, call William Carey Library at: (626) 798-0819.


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