ON THE GROUND

Hard places including extreme poverty

Hard places including extreme poverty

White Fields’ indigenous pastors serve in hard places. One may even liken it to a battle on the ground. They face attacks and counterattacks that aim to stop the spreading of the gospel—or even get it started—and to discourage them from persevering in the work of the Lord. These church planters are fighting a battle to win the lost.

The first battle comes from the hardened community and is manifested in many ways

  • Persecution by the majority religion. The majority religion can be very antagonistic, attacking the Christians through a variety of ways, making it a tough place to start a church.
  • When you are in a place where the people are so desperately poor, they are seeking just to stay alive. So starting a church there is hard. However, we also see in poverty situations that people are very ready to accept the gospel. But growing them into a church body is difficult.
  • The absence of general utilities. In the absence of sewers, electricity, and water, the pastor has to teach the people how to live. The people are not prepared for or know how to get the basic necessities of life.
  • market on highwayThe absence of grocery stores. Pastors have to raise their food because it is not available locally, or if it is; it is too expensive to buy. Because of this, the pastors spend a great deal of time farming and raising livestock.
  • Hard-hearted people. Generation after generation has practiced animism, demonic worship, or ancestral worship. The pastor is sharing the gospel on very dry and hard and thirsty ground. This takes great perseverance on the part of the church planter.
  • Culture lacks basic knowledge of a biblical worldview. Because of this, there is no foundation for sharing the gospel. Simple truths—there is a personal God, or He is active in the world, or we have offended God by our sin—are not there, so the church planter must begin by laying the groundwork.

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White Fields’ pastors are going to these hard places

teachingThe pastors we support are educated. They could leave these areas or just not go to these areas. They could make a fortune serving in more populated, more educated areas, building mega churches. They could provide a comfortable living for themselves and for their families.

But the pastors we support stay in these poorer communities because of their heart’s desire and because God has led them to do so. They desire to minister to these spiritually depraved people who are living in financial poverty. And their goals are to transform that community through the gospel of Jesus Christ and to see to it that they are established spiritually in their new life in Christ. They also desire to see the people be raised out of physical poverty so that they can raise healthy children to know and grow in the Lord.

Choosing to serve on the ground requires sacrifice

Our Fields Director indicates how the people dug the well by hand - 90' deep.

Our Field Director in Myanmar, Pastor Thawng showing how the well was dug by hand so that the church could provide clean water to the community.

Pastor Thawng made this choice. He left his home in the Chin State of Myanmar. He left the place where his family—his mother and his brothers—all lived. He could have stayed and worked in the family business or stayed and worked in a church filled with relatives and people he knew. But instead, he left the familiar and traveled down to Yangon where there were few Christians. By the grace of God he has made headway against the enemy camp. A Bible school has been established and today there are 28 students studying to be pastors and church leaders.

Pastor Onesimus is another example. Although highly educated, he lives in the poorest area of Uganda. He left Kampala, the capital city, where he could have easily built a large and wealthy church. But God called him to go to this poor area. And he is out there, spending two to three hours on the dirt road, in order to reach the Rukungiri area.

This dedication is what makes the ministry of White Fields vibrant. We are privileged to be partners with these sacrificial and dedicated servants.

A second battle the pastors inevitably face is the people’s lack of education

  • The lack of education spirals and touches many. Because of this, the church needs to provide educational opportunities for children. They have to sponsor literacy education or else these children grow up without the ability to read. And without the ability to read—without education—they are unable to grow out of the poverty they are in. The adults who cannot read or write have a miserable time advancing in careers and generally make minuscule salaries. So, offerings in the new church grow very slowly. It takes quite an effort to gather enough funds to sustain the church ministry.
  • Paul with childrenUneducated people also fall prey to unbiblical schemes by false teachers easily. (That doesn’t mean that educated people don’t believe false teachings too, but the uneducated are taken advantage of and will fall more easily even though they are sincerely trying to follow Jesus.)
Men building benches in a rural property - they started without a building.

Men are building benches on a rural property – they started this church without a building.

The pastors, therefore, need to guard and give close and careful attention to protecting the members of the church, and this can be very time-consuming, difficult, and heart-wrenching.

  • Progress in learning the Bible can be slow and tedious. The pastors must spend a great deal of time repeating lessons again and again so that the people can understand. And since they can’t read, they need extra tutoring just to learn the basic biblical principles. The pastors can’t give them something to read on their own and in their own time, thinking they’ll come back understanding how to pray, and how to read and study the Bible. Discipleship requires diligent effort and repetition by the pastor.

A third battle is the lack of water and power

  • Lack of water and electricity affect time and schedules. The members of the church must spend a significant portion of their day working just to meet the basic requirements of living. So there is not much time left to spend studying the Bible or doing activities with the church.

The pastors in these churches must do the ministry work within the parameters of the people’s schedules. While trying to attain the goals of the church’s ministry, the pastors will sometimes have to go out and spend time with them in the rice fields just to be with them because that is where the people are. They have to spend their days, during the planting and harvest seasons, from sun up to sun down, in the fields just to survive.

Open markets and lack of simple utilities like power and running water

Open markets and lack of simple utilities like power and running water make life harder.

The battle against disease brings discouragement

  • Common illnesses are more difficult to fight. Common illnesses that could be cured by antibiotics end in tragedy because they don’t have the resources.
  • There is a greater occurrence of death in these poor communities. Sometimes babies and even the mothers can die in childbirth. This is such a great tragedy. We need to support our pastors in prayer because this can be very discouraging to deal with.

The sacrificial nature of White Fields’ pastors

  • They do not have the convenience of living arrangements. If they were to stay in an easier place, they would have stores to shop at and better housing. But they give this up and live in very poor situations.
  • They do not have ease of developing leaders in the church. Pastors who go to an area that is uneducated means they are going to have to do a lot more work teaching them how to read and understand the Bible. They won’t have people who are college graduates that they can hand a book to and say, “Read this and we’ll talk about the discipleship principles.” He is working with uneducated people, and this will require him to work in more rudimentary elements—such as training them to read and understand logical principles and sequential issues of the Bible.
  • They do not have easy access for quality education for their own children. They realize they will have to homeschool their children or find another local source to assist in this.
  • They suffer disappointment when talented young people from the community leave. Often the pastors will make huge investments of time in training and discipling these young people. But when the young people see an opportunity for better advantage in education or a job they continually leave the poor communities to find their fortunes in the big city.
Director Steve Wheeler prays with a pastor and his wife on a visit to their church.

Director Steve Wheeler prays with a pastor and his wife on a visit to their church.

We need to pray for the pastors because it is very discouraging when one after another leaves the church for a job in another community (even though there is a sense of joy that the young person has an opportunity for an advantage, it’s the loneliness of losing someone who helps minister).

We can stand by them in prayer and through financial support

Join us in this support.
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I hope that you gain insight into the method of the ministry of White Fields.

We need to be involved in praying for these pastors because
their needs are many.

We also need to support these pastors financially, so they have the resources to lay the foundation of the church.