How can foreign missionaries help equip local Christians to reach their neighbours?

Imagine a scenario where God’s people are surrounded by dozens of ethnic groups with few opportunities to hear of Jesus. Imagine church members could travel right into the heartland of these people groups by taking just one overnight bus journey. The scenario you are imagining is the real-life situation of the Church I serve in Southeast Asia. They are perfectly positioned geographically, and much more prepared culturally than any foreign worker, to be effective workers in this harvest field.

As I seek to equip local churches here, my prayer is that whole congregations will take their place in God’s global plan among these peoples. That they will start praying for these peoples to worship Christ and that local congregations would gladly release gifted workers to serve in this harvest field.

I have learnt from experience to begin the equipping process by focusing on God’s promise to Abraham that ‘all the peoples of the earth will be blessed’ (Genesis 12:3). As local believers reflect on this promise, their perspective changes. The people groups surrounding them are not outsiders in the purposes of God. Rather, they are destined to receive the blessing of God. It is simply a matter of time. The next vital step in the equipping process is to encourage congregations to pray in an informed way for the ethnic groups around them. Believers often share that when they pray for a particular ethnic group, they find that their own hearts are warmed. After this step, the equipping process is tailored according to the believer’s specific calling, whether that is sending well or going themselves.

Is equipping the Church for mission a suitable role for a foreigner like myself? I would be delighted to see an abundance of local Christians rise up and equip the Church for mission here. However, until that becomes a reality, I have one unique contribution to offer. As local believers see me, they witness a very ordinary person, striving to live cross-culturally. My hope and prayer is that, as they witness this, their response will be: ‘If she can do it, so can I!’

An OMF worker in Southeast Asia.