Discovering International Partners

Joy- Welcome to Asked and Answered,” the podcast series that answers all your mission-related questions. With me in the studio today are Ron and Charis Pearce.

Ron- Hi, Joy.

Joy- Hi, welcome back, guys! Okay, so today’s question is how does Empower Ministries find its international partners?

Ron- Well, the situations that you are probably referring to are when an opportunity, when a spiritual hotspot as we call it, pops up somewhere, how do we approach the people in the country involved, how do we search out this and validate it as something we want to be involved in? In other words, is this a quality opportunity or is this something by, whereby it’s good but it’s something that we just wouldn’t choose at Empower? That is I think what you’re getting at and the answer to that is very, very simple actually. What it means is that when we make first contact with a situation or a person, either they call us or we hear about them, rumors spread, we heard that this was going on, God puts two people or two situations together and then you move in at that time and basically, just say, Hey, let’s talk!” And we sort of sense their heart. So in the first phone call, first contact, I would be sitting at a table in the country over a cup of coffee or whatever and I’d be listening to the heart of the individual at the other end. What do they see? What do they want? What is their history? How long have they known the Lord? How large is their operation? Various things like that and they give me those answers but it is more than the answer, you read the spirit of that person, their heart, and you just sense, okay, are these people walking with Jesus? What about their integrity? Both telling the truth but also representing accurately what is going on. Thirdly, how do they handle money? In other words, if we trust them with our funds, to buy things, etcetera like that, how are their accounting procedures and things like that? Doctrinally how do they fit in the wide range of doctrine? Are they in the middle somewhere? And, therefore, I’m going to throw this out to people and sort of say, Well, what about this one? What about this one?” If they are Bible-believing, born again, preaching individuals either from a Wesleyan, Baptist, Pentecostal, Alliance, Free Methodist, whatever background, or maybe no named background at all, something that is strange to us, but if they believe in Jesus as the only way and they walk on the pathway based on the Bible then we will say, Okay, this is good.” We can work with this. And then the last thing that we are looking for at first contact is do you have a burden for the lost and do you have a burden for the Word of God as being primary, the foundation of your operation. Some people surprisingly come to us and the Bible is an add-on. It’s just sort of like, oh yeah, we need a few Bibles too.

If they are Bible-believing, born again, preaching individuals either from a Wesleyan, Baptist, Pentecostal, Alliance, Free Methodist, whatever background, or maybe no named background at all, something that is strange to us, but if they believe in Jesus as the only way and they walk on the pathway based on the Bible then we will say, Okay, this is good.”

Joy- So it’s not the first thing they asked.

Ron- No, it’s down probably around number six.

Joy- And that is a red flag for Empower?

Ron- Totally!

Charis- And usually those people, one of the first things they are asking for is a building.

Ron- They want a building, they want a new set of clothes, they want something to dress everything up. They want to become Western-ish.

Joy- Okay, they want to model after the North American Church.

Ron- They have seen something on the internet, they have heard something, they want to be sort of like that style. I’m going to use this word and I think I can get away with it, they are pretty glitzy and they want that glitz factor and therefore, that is fine, there is lots of room in the Kingdom of God for all sorts of things. We at Empower will just move away from that. But if that individual sitting across the table, first thing is he says this is our background, this is our history, looks good but then I will ask him, What do you think we can do to help you in your ministry? A church planting ministry?” Not evangelistic alone. But a church planting which is taking the new Christians that have been evangelized and putting them into a body of believers that is growing and solid and everything like that. I say, What do you think?” If they come back and they say anything to do with scriptures, Do you have any Bibles? New Testaments, we desperately need the New Testaments!” It’s not the listing of those issues, it’s how they say it, with what passion. And then I will say, Hmm, okay, I think we can help with that.” That raises interest; that validates it a little bit. They’ve gone over 50% on that question alone on the test. And I’ll say, how about if we start off, can you use maybe 10,000 or 20,000 New Testaments and about 3,000 Bibles and a few other things like that? And if their response to that is, That would be awesome! Thank you so, so, so much!” In other words, if I see gratitude, not for us, but gratitude that shows the fact that they really wanted this, and then we say, There is no charge involved, we will drop it off to you and just let us know how it goes, okay?”

Joy- Are they amazed at the no charge part?

Ron-Yeah, all the time. I just got off of a phone call with a guy in Europe, and said no charge. You’re kidding! Wow! Unbelievable!” Because they can only afford a little bit, most of these operations are poor and, therefore, if we can move in there and help them they greatly appreciate it. Because the hunger is so great amongst the people. So anyway, we start out with that, they get the Bibles, three or four months later give them a phone call or they call us or they send us a report or something like that. I don’t do things over email, everybody laughs at me, I’m very old-fashioned, I want to talk to somebody to hear the inflection in their voice, I want to read into the person, I don’t want to read into an email. Emails are cold, it can be deceptive. But if you can talk to a person that is good. So, how did it go?” You wouldn’t believe it! These people gobble it up. We had a bit of a riot in one church”

Joy- Riots are good!

Ron-Christian riots are fine! We were handing them out and everyone was so feverish about getting one we had to calm them down.” Okay, this is good, this is good. Okay, so you need some more?” If we could that would be wonderful!” Okay, we will see what we can do, what languages,” etcetera. So we will move to part two of that. And then somewhere in there I’ll say, So what other things do you do? Just describe to me, my friend, what do you do?” And therefore, they are going to talk about children’s ministries and they are going to talk about maybe a bicycle or a motorcycle for this leader, etcetera. Not thinking that we are going to provide it but just sort of describing what they are going to do and I know what to pick out and that would be at second contact. And therefore, we’ll pick those out and say, Well listen, you’ve got three leaders, they really need to get out to these fields to multiply their effectiveness, what about if we get them some motorcycle help?” You’re kidding!” No, no, we can do this.” This will multiple the opportunities and everything of that nature and they will say, Fantastic!” And then I say something like, I heard in your conversation that you were talking about a training session for your leadership on Christian education for children, so do you have a children’s ministry?” Oh yeah, we’ve got 10,000 children that we do this, this and this with.” Okay, well we’ve got some materials for that and also could you make use of a little help to put on that conference, etcetera?” Oh yeah! And we can invite these groups and these guys can come in and they will take a bus….” Okay, let’s do that one too.” Okay, so now we have stepped over the line and then you keep moving in your relationship watching all the way as to how they handle it, how they utilize the assistance. It’s like in a garden, or in a field. So you find some good soil, you put some seeds in it. Farmer comes back and says next year I’m going to use some fertilizer. So we come along and say, you know what, we are good, we are like fertilizer, so we give them some fertilizer to spread on the field. Last year they got a return of tenfold. With the fertilizer, they got a fiftyfold return. And so I say, that’s a good bit of fertilizer you did there. And they say yeah, if we had that bit of something over here…and therefore, we build. We build in helping. It’s always with a watchful eye to make sure that there is not a dependency factor growing in it. But at the same time, we do want to bless our brothers and sisters who are being successful in winning people for eternity.

<p>Outside church gathering with motorcycles.</p>
And therefore, we’ll pick those out and say, “Well listen, you’ve got three leaders, they really need to get out to these fields to multiply their effectiveness, what about if we get them some motorcycle help?”

Charis- And I think too one of the interesting things is that we don’t develop typical business relationships, we develop friendships with our partners and over the years as your friendship gets closer, I mean obviously we still keep all of our accounting and all the stuff that has to get done, but as the friendship gets closer they will be able to expand more on, you know, We are thinking of doing this..” and some of the walls break down.

Joy- Well, there is more of a trust built.

Ron- Totally, and that has been the big thing throughout the life at Empower, Charis, as you realize, we don’t operate as a business, we operate as a ministry with friends and the body of Christ is not built upon arms-length relationships, it’s built upon, basically, a hug and if you want to take those arms and bring them in that’s what we do. So we know the families involved, we know their lives, we know the leaders, we know the operations, we know their weaknesses, their strengths, their everything because we’ve all got weaknesses and strengths.

Joy- And many of your partners you’ve had for as long as Empower has been.

Ron- I’ve known some of them for 35 – 40 years! And then there is new people coming on all the time, new countries. Today we had two new countries, or three, I’m not even sure. And so it keeps moving and it’s good because we can help them with some things. Not just Bibles, not just material things, we can sort of share with them some ideas and some directions that they might think in. What we call that is cross-pollinating. So, therefore, in this country they do this but this guy over here in another country, he doesn’t know anything about that. They are pretty localized. And so we walk in and we say, You know Joe, over here in China, he does it this way,” and then this brother in India says, Really? Does it work?” And I say, Yeah it does. Why don’t we, brother in India, why don’t we go for a little trip. Let’s meet the guy in China, the guy in China that has 8 million under his leadership, and we’ll talk to him.” So we go together over there, they cross-pollinate ideas, thoughts, etcetera, guy from India goes back home and says man, that would really work well! Why didn’t we ever think of that before? Well, I don’t know. And therefore, it’s a matter of not just taking goods and it’s not just preaching at them a method. It’s introducing a friend to a friend so that they can get advice.

Joy- Well, and you’re not coming in to take over and you don’t tell them what to do. It’s just a suggestion.

Ron- No, absolutely. This is the church Jesus is building. God is in control, we are just providing the help that is necessary from our limited resources to help it grow. But, at the same time, some organizations and some people can get drawn into the idea of trying to direct operations and activities. They want to manage the thing to death. And over the years that has always been something we have stayed away from at Empower, is management. We are helpers, we are lovers of people, we are burdened with the Word of God, and souls being saved. At the same time, we back off on the management.

Joy- Well, you’re drawn to good leadership overseas.

Ron- They were already good managers.

Joy-Right, who have established their good leadership and management.

We are helpers, we are lovers of people, we are burdened with the Word of God, and souls being saved.

Ron- In their culture, in their operations. I don’t know the intricacies of their cultures and societies. I have no right to go in and tell them what to do in that environment. None. Because they are the experts. Let’s give them honor in that regard.

Charis- One of the other things that we do is we lose our identity. We don’t want big plaques that say Empower donated this, or these are from Empower, or recognition for that. We’re just there to help.

Ron- Exactly. And part of that is that sometimes we actually say our involvement should only be known by the leadership in the country and, Charis, that is a very good point. We don’t want the average pastor in the field in a national church planting movement basically to know that we even exist. The leaders we have good contact with but sometimes it’s tough as you get drawn in and those people underneath, humanly speaking, they have other needs and they may look at us and say, Boy, I wish I could talk to this guy from North America because he can share with us and maybe they can help us in our situation.” We can’t do it that way. Can’t do it. We have to operate through the established constituted authority of that person, that organization, that church planting network. Keep it at that level. When I go in and hear the stories, we get those firsthand from the workers in the field. We don’t go through the leaders, we go directly to get the on the ground reports.

Joy- And those are the best ones, that’s the good stuff.

Ron- Oh, that’s the gravy, that’s the roast beef and gravy right there. But at the same time, I don’t give out business cards, I don’t give out names, we instruct the leaders don’t tell them who we are. We are just friends from afar and we are very interested in what they are doing. That really keeps us on a level playing field.

Joy- And you mentioned dependency, can you touch base on that a little more and explain how Empower doesn’t want to foster this dependency.

Ron- Well, it’s a matter of looking at it this way, that the body of Christ needs to work together. One part can help another part and we do that but not at the point where we throw too much at a person or a situation or we overwhelm them whereby, the human nature takes over and they become dependent upon our participation. And therefore, we have to draw a line, a good line but we will always, always come to the point of saying we are here to help but we’re not going to control. Don’t look at us for everything, you’ve got to stand on your own two feet. For instance, when you have a child who’s growing up and they’re going out in the world, and they’ll call back home and, Charis, you were in that situation, like, I don’t have any money for a bed, I need a bed, Dad, please.” And we’ll say, Of course, we love you and we will move in and we’ll help out with that” because we love her and she’s getting started in life, she’s getting started in everything and she just needs a kickstart.

Joy- Now if Charis had asked for you to pay all her bills, on the other hand, you might not.

Ron- Yeah, because she lost all her money in Vegas, you know, okay, we’re going to back off a little bit.

Joy- But to be clear, that never happened.

Charis- Thank you!

Ron- To be clear that never happened, no. But the idea here is how to not make a person dependent upon your help all the time but to stand on your own two feet. And that is what national churches want to do. So, therefore, dependency is not really a problem if you handle it the right way at the beginning.

Joy- Well, a really good example is Ethiopia and when you are sponsoring the national church planters have a model I know that it’s really a year to two years before, and it happens organically, that the church starts supporting as they should.

Ron- You know, when you get into a national church planter, he’s got a little family, he’s out there in the middle of nowhere, so we can pick them up for up to two years to help them. So you’re giving them $35-$50 per month for food, clothing, housing, etcetera like that realizing, and the leadership knows, after that time they have got to be up and running. And usually, they are up and running in the 6 – 12 months. They don’t need it after that so that aid, that assistance goes to somewhere else. They are also, at the same time having their congregation take over on the support level. So we are not having a dependency, it’s just giving a little help to get started that’s all. So that is what we do. On the other side of the coin, you’ve got some people, some pastors, who have turned into professional church planters or professional evangelists and they have a gift for that, of going right into the situations, they are never going to have a congregation to support them. Never. They are going to hop around so they will go into a village, preach the Gospel for a week, 50 – 60 people come to the Lord, they bring a young pastor in who is now a church planter, national pastor support, he moves into the area, takes that congregation and that guy is off to another village.

Joy- It’s two different roles.

Ron- It’s two different roles, totally. This is a God-anointed evangelist who’s going to go and start fires all over the place. Well, the guy needs help so we will pick somebody like that up, there’s not that many of them, we will pick somebody like that up, they operate at very, very low cost. Their wives usually may have ways of bringing in other income as well, so it’s only partial support. Therefore, we will help that guy to keep going doing his role in the Kingdom being evangelists. So I would say that’s very rare. 95% of operation is with 6 – 12 months, 1 – 2 year, and young pastor getting started in a village. But there is the odd situation where you’ve got to bless them as well. We don’t want them to stop starting fires. They are really important. And the Bible, where Paul is listing the gifts, etcetera, in ministry, one of those is an evangelist and, therefore, never will have a solid church. He’s a lonely man who’s out there preaching the Gospel.

Joy- And we’ve talked about transportation but it’s also really essential. It goes hand in hand because you’ve talked about, let’s say Vietnam and as church planter and the distance they have to go and just how incredible a motorcycle could be to grow the ministry, to keep the ministry thriving.

Ron- It’s unbelievable because you are taking away the walking time and putting it into ministry time.

Joy- Hours versus days sometimes.

Ron- Exactly, and it’s safer for them, they can be home at night, they are not out with the wild animals walking out in the darkness or sleeping in the jungles overnight. Or thieves or various situations that pop up depending on their situation. Therefore, it’s just a very valuable tool. That’s all it is, it’s a tool to help.

Joy-Alright well, I think that effectively answered the question. Thank you.

<p>Ethiopian pastor in front of congregation</p>
This is a God-anointed evangelist who’s going to go and start fires all over the place.

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