This is an article from the September-October 1991 issue: Adopt-A-People

Adoption/Partnership Makes a Difference

Adoption/Partnership Makes a Difference

Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, "ADOPTS" Nigeria's Atyap People

There is a new excitement rippling through the congregation as a result of the church's participation in the Adopt-A-People program according to Dr. Stephen J. Cornils, senior pastor of Central Lutheran Church (CLC) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Indeed, God is planting seeds of new vision to reach unreached people groups in many people's hearts at Central Lutheran.

Central Lutheran, with roughly 4,000 members, has an annual budget of about $1.8 million. Located at the edge of downtown Minneapolis, it is one of many churches in which God is at work through the Adopt-A- People program.

Cornils said that church members' excitement is growing as they realize the significant part they can have in finishing the task of world evangelization. Members of the congregation are becoming increasingly involved in all types of mission activities.

Joanne Peterson, the Minneapolis Perspectives program coordinator and a staff member at Central Lutheran, said that this year, out of a class of 115 students, "almost half" are from the church. Last year, only five CLC members took the course.

John Holum, a member of the church's board of world mission, said CLC members are using the Global Prayer Digest to pray "specifically and systemically" for highlighted unreached groups. "Every Sunday during the first worship service," he said, "a group meets for an hour of prayer" based on updates from the church's missionaries and on the participants' own observations of God's activity in the world. The group, he said, has a small turn-out now, "but we're seeking to attract more people."

Challenged by the concept that world evangelization could be completed by the year 2000 if churches will each take responsibility for a bite-sized piece (a people group), Central Lutheran decided to take part in the Adopt-A-People program. The congregation then officially adopted the Atyap (ah-chYAP) people of central Nigeria.

Part of the reason the church chose the Atyaps is that a young couple from the church, Brian and Ann Smith (not their real names), had been at work among the Atyaps for about a year. The Smiths are Bible translators under the supervision of the Nigeria Bible Translation Trust. During the morning worship services on September 18, Pastor Cornils, Florence Worner (president of the congregation), Dr. Oliver Peterson (chairman of the board of world mission), and a representative of the Smiths' North American sponsoring agency all signed a covenant that binds Central Lutheran to the Atyap people.

In two years, the church, the Atyaps, the Smiths and the Smiths' agencies will all review the agreement to determine if they should continue, modify, or terminate it.

The church has decided to support the Smiths' translation work at a minimum rate of $10,000 a year. Further, the church intends to send all its children's Sunday School offerings to the Smiths during the six weeks of Lent. These children will also be educated and informed about the Atyap people and the Smiths' translation work.

"We hope Adopt-A-People will enable all the members of our church to personalize their involvement in world missions," said Linda Roal, a member of the CLC mission board who worked at the U.S. Center for World Mission. "We see this 'adoption' process as a means of opening doors into the lifeblood of every member's daily prayers--not only for the Atyap people, but also for the work of our other missionaries."

Roal said one of the most attractive aspects of the adoption idea is that it can be (and in CLC's case, is) a "mutual relationship." "While we support the Atyap church with translation workers and prayers, we're asking them to help by doing some of the translation work themselves and also by praying for our church's spiritual needs."

She said the mission board hopes the Adopt-A-People program will become so personal that members of CLC will come to know individual Atyaps by name and will become so concerned for them that they will pray regularly and specifically for them.

In August, seven leaders from Central Lutheran made a trip to witness firsthand the work the church sponsors in two parts of Africa. They spent a week in the area where the Smiths live and work.

One of the visitors said she finds it "exciting to be part of a congregation that is bringing the Bible to these lovable people."

The team made the trip in order to gather information and resources about the Atyap people so they could do a better job of mobilizing the congregation as a whole during the church's annual Mission Festival held in November. Thus, the members of the church were educated in greater depth about the Atyaps, and were challenged to pray regularly for their spiritual and physical needs, for the missionaries, and for the translation work of the Bible into the Tyap (the Atyaps' native) language.

"The thing I get most excited about with the Adopt-A-People program is that it commits us to a people group rather than just to a missionary," said Rev. Dick Beckman, missions pastor at Central Lutheran. "We are committing ourselves to a long-term relationships with the Atyap people that may lead us to support a variety of mission efforts among them beyond just the translation work itself."

Does this sound like something your church should be involved in? If so, contact:

Mobilization Division
1605 Elizabeth Street
Pasadena, CA 91104
Phone: 818/398-2202

They will be happy to provide you with information, resources, advice... whatever you need to successfully adopt your own people.


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