After spending what he characterizes as "seven formative and fulfilling years" with the worldwide ministry of Youth With A Mission, George Otis, Jr. and his wife. Lisa, left their European base of operation in November of 1980 to found a unique ministry of evangelistic problem-solving.
In the process of praying about the move, the Otises were motivated by an obscure passage of scripture. In I Chronicles 12:32 the sons of Issachar are described as "men that had understanding of the times to know what Israel should do....
Raised up in the spirit and tradition of this biblical tribe, Issachar Frontier Missions Strategies was officially established in April of 1981 to provide Christian coworkers with vital information and knowledge on contemporary mission challenges. An important initial goal was to develop fresh and innovative strategies for evangelizing the nearly 3 billion people living in countries technically off-limits to conventional missionaries.
From its inception, Issachar has consistently challenged negative assumptions about the viability of ministry in certain hard-to-reach countries. In terms of its "can do" mentality, Otis hopes Issachar will be the demise, of those he calls the "spiritual Flat-Earth Society."
Prior to his departure from YWAM, Otis had traveled in numerous communist, Muslim, and Hindu countries, and in the mid-1970s assisted in the development of training programs for Christian workers called lo minister in difficult lands.
From late 1977 through mid-1980, he led a multinational research team that carried out much of the preparatory work for a large-scale evangelistic effort into the Soviet Union. Dubbed "Operation Friendship," this Olympic-year outreach mobilized more than 1200 short-term missionaries from 30 countries, and ultimately led to a significant number of first- and second-generation converts.
From its earliest days, Issachar has aggressively taken on special projects literally the world over. In the ministry's first three years, Issachar personnel were deeply involved with evangelistic youth rallies in the Soviet Baltic states. Held twice annually these rallies were attended by as many as 1500 spiritually-hungry Soviets.
Two years later, in 1984, the ministry completed an extensive study into current evangelistic needs and opportunities in the Mongolian Peoples Republic÷a country which has never had an established, self-propagating church. That fall in Tokyo, Issachar convened a meeting of approximate 30 relevant mission leaders, radio production and Bible translators from throughout Europe, Asia, and North America lo study an respond in practical ways to the information gathered.
Further projects, some still operational, have been undertaken in Yugoslavia, Israel and the West Bank, and throughout a collection of other countries in eastern Europe, southeast Asia, southern Africa, and the Middle East.
Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, ill organization has a second U.S. office in North Carolina. Overseas, the ministry op crates out of quiet bases in Hong Kong, Sweden, Kenya, and two locations in the Middle East. Organization leaders are hopeful of soon establishing three additional centers to handle increasing networking and information-gathering activities in Europe, Central America, and southern Asia.
Issachar presently employs 17 staff members and offers a number of other volunteers and interns an interesting place to grow and contribute. All told, the Issachar team has traveled nearly 2 million miles throughout some of the most spiritually challenging areas of the world. Almost all of the staff has spent previous time living abroad, and is proficient in a variety of foreign languages. The ministry's biggest project to date has been an effort undertaken on behalf of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE). After his appointment as an LCWE senior associate in 1986, Otis quickly mobilized the organization's resources behind the new drive to forge meaningful evangelistic partnerships between the church in the free world and believers in some 75 restricted countries.
This project parallels numerous other LCWE tracks dealing with issues such as urbanization, emerging younger leaders, prayer, missions research, and the Muslim world prior to the 1989 international congress on world evangelization.
Already, advisory groups consisting of between 15 and 25 regional mission leaders and specialists have been set up in half a dozen spiritually parched areas of the world. After identifying key indigenous leaders, these groups are designed to encourage the leaders lo prayerfully seek fresh ministry strategies and then harness the necessary resources to fulfill the vision God gives them. The objective? Major evangelistic breakthroughs in difficult or under-serviced harvest fields.
Another over-arching Issachar commitment is to tentmaking or bi-vocational missions. In collaboration with another Seattle-based ministry, Tentmakers International (Tl), Issachar is in the process of putting together one of the most comprehensive packages of tools and services available for Christian lay-people desiring to use their vocational skills to accomodate and support ministry endeavors abroad.
In addition to enhancing Tl's existing job-placement database with new job openings and a host of non-vocational means of entering restricted-access countries, Issachar is also developing the capacity to assist individuals who wish to create new tentmaker opportunities where none presently exist.
Whatever you need÷a printout of existing tentmaker opportunities, or informational puzzle pieces from which lo create a picture or scenario of possibilities for service÷ Issachar can also offer specific preparatorym information such as detailed instructions for acquiring a visa, or briefs on currency, climate, security, and transportation in your destination country.
Out on the Field, Issachar is geared to provide several additional services, not the least of which is help in the area of spiritual care and nurture. Among other things, this involves organizing regional retreats which feature teaching and counseling teams prepared to minister to Christian tentmakers living under particularly stressful conditions.
Above all else, however, Issachar is a vendor of new ideas. Through a continuous process of gathering and analyzing information on the times in which we live, the ministry's staff endeavors to distinguish how the world is changing, explain what these changes mean, provide stimulating and creative ideas for ministry, and offer key contacts and support to those who are committed to launching out
Mission strategist and World Vision's vice president, Ed Dayton, recently declared: "In a constantly changing world which, at times, threatens to be engulfed by masses of information, Issachar is one of those premiere agencies who understand the times and are thinking God's thoughts after Him in laying strategies for world evangelization."
Over the years, one of the primary means Issachar has used to communicate its new ideas is through its publications. One of these, a bi-monthly publication entitled Strategic Times, is available free for a period of six months. It combines articles dealing with present and future issues, trends, and opportunities in evangelism, with fascinating glimpses into some of the world's most tightly-controlled areas.
For your own subscription to Strategic Times, for more information about other publications put out by Issachar, or for information about the organization itself, write or call: Issachar Frontier Missions Strategies