All posts by brianvir

From Nobodies to Somebodies for God’s Glory!

In celebrating Thanksgiving far away from home we took time to give thanks for you – for your prayers, partnership, generosity, and faithfulness to the Lord. As many here express their thanksgiving for our family living here and serving at IGSL, that thanksgiving quickly is reproduced in our own hearts with you in mind.

This past month, my team and I (Brian) hosted an IGSL alumni couple for three weeks as part of an immersion experience that is central to our process of recruiting and accepting new IGSL faculty members. We are excited about potentially adding another Southeast Asian couple to our faculty team, but we want you to hear their story because it’s an amazing testimony to God’s power and sovereignty.

       Prateep grew up as a Hmong refugee in Thailand, when his family fled Laos shortly after the Vietnam War. He could not get an education because he did not have Thai citizenship and his father, when given an opportunity to settle in America or Australia, chose to stay in Thailand. He finally received Thai citizenship 17 years after arriving in Thailand and immediately enrolled at a Bible College while also taking night classes to earn his high school diploma.

       Phailin, also from the Hmong people group and an animist family, worked in the fields from the age thirteen on. When she had enough money after several years of working in the fields she found a school to attend in Chang Mai. After several years of schooling she was introduced to Christ and upon graduating she enrolled at the same Bible college Prateep was attending.

They connected over a common passion to serve as missionaries to different marginalized ethnic groups because of their own stories. Several years later, they had the opportunity to attend IGSL. Prateep enrolled in the MA Divinity program and Phailin took the Partners in Ministry program that Christine teaches in. They have shared how life-changing their time at IGSL was for their marriage, leadership development, and ministry vision. Upon graduation, Prateep was offered the position Dean of Students at the Bible College they both attended. As the school was drawing more and more students from Hmong, Ahka, Lahu, Khmu, and Karen tribes from Laos, Thailand, China, and Vietnam, they returned to serve together.

In their time as Dean of Students, Prateep and Phailin passed on many of the things they learned at IGSL. They developed small group mentoring for their students based on their experience in IGSL’s Iron Sharpening Groups and began mobilizing students for field ministry as part of the curriculum as well to the point where multiplying discipleship became part of the culture and they were sending out pastors and church planters with that vision.

Phailin was inspired by the Partners in Ministry Program (PIM) at IGSL and felt led to start a similar program at their Bible School. She asked the IGSL PIM Faculty for help and she launched the first PIM-Extension (PIM-EX). In 2015 they saw their first batch of PIM graduates – 9 women that wanted to be equipped to partner with their husbands in the ministry.

Just this past term, Christine helped champion PIM-EX training for our current PIM women and as a result there are now several dozen women from Pakistan to Vietnam with vision for providing Bible and ministry training to women whose husbands are in the ministry, but who have lacked the education, training and vision to support them and better yet, partner with them. Phailin’s vision and faith has now expanded IGSL’s own vision for what PIM’s impact could be in Asia and there are multiple PIM-EX ministries now being conducted by IGSL alumni throughout Asia!     

Now, Prateep and Phailin have sensed God might be expanding their ministry and impact again as IGSL Faculty. When we met with them on their visit, they shared that they saw God use them so much as a result of their IGSL education and the mentoring they received, that they want to multiply their impact through students just like them when they first arrived at IGSL. Prateep will be joining me in the Leadership Department and Phailin will be helping teach the PIM Bible courses.


“I want our story to show how great God is in raising nobodies like us to become somebody for His glory.”

— Prateep W.


       We’re so excited about adding this couple to our faculty team, but they also serve as vision and as a great reminder that IGSL students are really bearing fruit back in their ministry contexts after graduation and multiplying the ministry.  This is what you are giving to and what we are praying for!   

As we come to the end of the year we want to invite you to make a year-end gift unto the Lord towards our ministry at IGSL to missionaries, pastors, and leaders like Prateep and Phailin who are living boldly for Christ and multiplying their lives for God’s purposes.

In addition to the expenses of Brian’s 2nd year of PhD Coursework ($3000 for 4 classes), we have been invited to attend CRU’s Asia Midyear Conference for missionary care and spiritual refreshment and to reunite with the families we coached and connected with at X-Track this summer. We will help coach our CRU mission teams in Asia and contribute by giving seminars on conflict resolution in an honor shame context. Attending this conference was part of our “well-being” action plan from X-Track. The cost will be about $3000 for our family to fly to Chang Mei, Thailand and attend the week long Conference.

Would you prayerfully consider giving a year-end financial gift of $100, $300, $500 or other amount towards these expenses?

If God leads you to give, please follow this link to our online giving page to make a one time gift.

We are so grateful to have been sent here by you and to be prayed for consistently by you. God continues to raise up Spirit-filled laborers for all parts of Asia in ways that bring Him glory. We pray you have a blessed Christmas season!

Merry Christmas,
Brian & Christine

Update on Abbas

Last week I was able to spend some time with Abbas. A year ago we shared about how his father in law was martyred by Islamic Radicals with a machete in the street. Abbas was in Manila for a Muslim ministry conference and it was a blessing and challenging to fellowship with him. I and others have struggled to know how to come alongside Abbas. Talking in person allowed me understand so much more of his situation.

He has stayed in his town, despite being blackballed from employment and multiple attacks from Muslims and angry family members because he has 6 house churches he has been leading that are watching. He has feared some would return to Islam because the pressure is so great-so they have stayed at great risk to themselves.

Abbas’ wife Nasima is pregnant and they will have their 1st children after 9 years of marriage next month – but this heightens their decision even more. He senses it might be time for them to move because he thinks it is growing more hostile and they will need more help with the baby than they will get. Please pray for wisdom and for God’s protection and that Abbas and Nasima would connect to other Christian workers in Bangladesh!

 

A Stretching Month!


It’s been a while since our last email update, but we’re excited to share some of what has been going on in ministry here at IGSL, some family updates, and a brief update on Abbas and Nasima from Bangladesh who we shared about a year ago. We’d love your prayers now as we come off a really demanding October and for the items below.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is that I (Brian) was designated to be the Interim Executive Director of IGSL in mid-September. So I have been running the school day-to-day and leading our executive leadership team. This has been quite the challenge as we are right in the middle of a curriculum revision process and restructuring our doctoral programs. This has been on top of my normal role Directing Human Resources and Leadership Development and regular functions like teaching and mentoring students. This role will continue through early January when the Executive Director returns from a long furlough.  Please pray for my capacity and wisdom in guarding my priorities and time with family!

We are currently in the middle of our 2nd Term. Christine has been helping teach the Ministry Communication Class in the Partners in Ministry Program and has done a fair amount of faculty care coming alongside some of our new faculty wives and moms. I am teaching our introduction to Servant Leadership course with our 1st-year students. Please pray for us as we teach and work with our students. We have 4 couples from our mentoring small groups that graduate in April so we are starting to prepare them for their upcoming transitions back to ministry in their countries.

October is also the month where I have a lot of my doctoral intensives. We celebrated in September the completion of my 1st year of PhD program in Peace Studies! Year 2 began about the same time. In October, I did a few weeks of courses facilitated on conflict negotiation, conflict coaching, and conflict mediation with special emphasis on cross-cultural contexts. The primary professor for these modules used to work for the state department around the world and then spent many years as one of the top guys for Peacemakers on the International side. They were great weeks and these courses will go through the end of February. So the journey continues, but please pray that with everything else going on I can still be diligent and forge ahead in the program.

But as you see above – our family continues our cross-cultural journey here in Manila. It’s Kaelyn’s birthday today and she celebrated yesterday on her school field trip by riding a Carabao! These moments bring a lot of joy because they are just so out of the box for us.  Kaelyn turns 7.  Last week we celebrating Colin’s 10th birthday.  We came to Manila when Kaelyn was 2 and Colin was 5 so they both have now spent over half of their lives in Manila! Please keep praying for them and for Morgan as they navigate their 3rd culture journeys!

Thank you all for your prayers and support!We continue to see God increase our impact and contribution to the ministry beyond what we could have imagined (and sometimes beyond what we even desired!) but God is good and faithful and we continue to see His hand at work in our family and our ministry. Thank you for being such a great part of this adventure!

Partnering With You,
Brian & Christine

 

Bridging the Prof-Student Gap

We introduced you to Amiyo from Bangladesh last week. One of the cross-cultural things that was at work in ministry week was between him and I. It was the first real time I had to get to know him after the returning from the U.S.  Early on he wouldn’t look me in the eye and always was trying to carrying my bags or suitcase when we were traveling.

Many of our students come from contexts where professors are very distant and have high status. One of the powerful parts of IGSL life is seeing that distance decrease and transform into real relationships and friendships. Amiyo still wants to carry my bags out of respect, but he now looks me in the eyes and is feeling comfortable joking with me and bringing his real self to our group and in his interactions with me.  This is where we get to model a different paradigm of leadership, authority, and power modeled after Christ and it’s always a powerful contrast to some of what our students after experienced previously.

Ministry Week: From the Classroom to the Field!

Last week was a ministry week. But isn’t every week a ministry week? Ministry week at IGSL is unique and one of the key experiences that separate our ministry training from many others. This is a week where each faculty member goes with their small group of students to a local context and partners with a local ministry in grassroots Great Commission ministry.

This was a different ministry week in that most of the guys in my group are graduating this year, meaning this will be the third year together and third year of doing ministry weeks. And it was a joy to see them really excel when a couple years ago some of them were limited by English or relative inexperience.  We partnered with a network of churches in San Jose Del Monte in the province of Bulacan (north of Manila) to help them train and equip their emerging leaders for evangelism, follow-up, and with some small group leadership training.

The church was planted 9 years ago by an IGSL alumni. In the 9 years, they have grown to several hundred members with most of their growth through new believers from nominal Catholic or a-religious backgrounds. They also began church planting immediately and have 6 daughter churches all that have 150 or more members (over 1100 members among all the daughter churches)  and that are thriving in their parts of the city. Their strategy has been to release 50-100 of their members and leaders to help launch a new church when they have the people and the Lord’s leading. The main church needed help training their new leaders after releasing over many of their top people in the previous three years.

Each of our team got opportunities to preach and conduct various trainings.  I conducted a couple sessions on “Leader Conversations” helping train their people on how to lead teams and small groups through the many challenging conversations that leaders must be able to initiate and handle well in grace and truth. Jonathan (Mindanao), Quang (Vietnam) and Dondi (Indonesia) conducted evangelism trainingsand new believer follow-up training. Amiyo (Bangladesh) helped train them on how to use their personal testimony in witnessing.

One of the highlights was that we conducted two different digital ministry and digital evangelismtrainings – one for the church leaders and another for the young professionals, college, and high school students. Dondi (pictured above from Indonesia) led these times and did a fantastic job introducing them to various ways to share the gospel through phones, gadgets, and various apps like facebook.  He introduced them to apps like God Tools, you-tube short films, the Jesus Film, Soularium, and others that can be used in various ways to initiate spiritual conversations or help guide someone through a gospel presentation (I also like the Big Story gospel app from IVF). This was extremely well received and so many expressed excitement to share the gospel in a way that felt comfortable and native to how they relate to their friends (i.e. through their phones!).

But the ministry is only one benefit. This was the most fun I’ve had on a ministry week – some because of the years of investment with some of these guys. But we laughed pretty hard throughout the week serving together and facing various challenges together. It was a great bonding time and there were numerous opportunities for heart to heart mentoring with individual guys through the time. These will be some of the more memorable times from these guys’ time at IGSL!

We had a great week of seeing the Lord work in people’s lives and were very encouraged by how God is using one of IGSL’s alumni to multiply churches. Overall – IGSL sent out over 25 teams and collectively we saw several thousand people come to faith in Christ, but probably more significantly all of our teams collectively were able to train several thousand believers and church leaders to multiply their faith through evangelism and discipleship. It’s invaluable for students to integrate classroom learning with field experience and that’s one of the things we do really well so thank you for your prayers. These weeks are always a high point of the school year and an essential part of the curriculum!

Partnering With You,
Brian & Christine

 

Meet The New Family From Bangladesh!

      We pray this finds you well as you enter the fall. It’s always a strange time of the year for us in that there are no signs of fall anywhere in the Philippines and “Christmas season” started officially on September 1st so Christmas carols are everywhere!  We are actually hanging lights this week because we’re already a couple weeks behind a lot of people 🙂

One of the fun things for us in coming back to Manila has been getting to know the key couple assigned to us to mentor as part of our ISG’s (Iron Sharpening Groups).  In the photo above meet Amiyo and Christina and their young son.

Amiyo grew up in the highest Hindu caste in Bangladesh, but came to Christ on his own as a result of studying Jesus in late high school and college and eventually through the help of a Campus Crusade For Christ Bangladesh staff member.  He shared that to his knowledge he is the first and only follower of Jesus in his village and surrounding area. His wife Christina was in university with him and came to Christ through him as well and they married shortly after.

      Tragically, his parents have not spoken to him since he gave his life to Christ and withdrew all funding for his schooling. Amiyo rode via motorbike to work manual labor jobs from 8pm to 8am every night to pay for his and Christina’s schooling while taking classes during the day. The both finished degrees and ultimately sensed a call into the ministry.  Amiyo has spent time as an evangelist and he and his wife have helped run a ministry for orphans in Bangladesh while pastoring.  They have come to IGSL to deepen their theological education and leadership training to fulfill their vision of seeing Hindus and Muslims in Bangladesh come to know Jesus.

You can pray for them as they culturally adjust to the Philippines which has been a challenge for them and as both continue to make progress with their English.  He has not yet passed his English proficiency exam, but he’s getting closer.  And you can pray for Christine and I as we seek to come alongside them to help prepare them spiritually and as leaders for what God is calling them to do in a very difficult place to minister.  We’re already humbled and amazed by their faith and calling. But people like them are what makes us excited to be here at IGSL.  It’s a privilege you and I to resource and empower people like this who can minister in places we can’t.

          This was during one of our minstry week night’s this week – if you look closely you can see my “longgi” (sp?) which is the skirt like apparel worn in Bangladesh during leisure time that Amiyo gifted me upon meeting me.

 

Refresh Your Vision!

      We made it back to Manila about a week and a half ago so our kids could start school a couple days later. We immediately were met with typhoons, flooding on the roads on the 1st day of school, plumbing problems as we fired up the pipes, and car trouble – not the graceful entrance we were hoping for! But we did come back to our dog Oreo who brought a great amount of comfort to the kids in the transition while also now earning the nickname “Doublestuff” because our over conscientious dog sitter fed the dog so much that she seems to have gained 10 pounds in the 10 weeks we were gone.

As the family is becoming more settled, Christine and I are starting to transition back into our ministry at IGSL. We’re in a place of refreshing our vision of what we’re doing and why – especially after a great time in the U.S. this summer.  And as we reconnect with our vision to see God raise up passionate, effective, and theologically equipped Christian leaders for ALL of Asia, we thought it would be a good time to invite you to refresh your vision as well!

It’s likely been several or many years since we could outline and share in person the vision and strategy of what we are doing at IGSL in Manila, so we’ve put our ministry vision and calling presentation online at our website as an interactive presentation to provide a big picture overview of what we’re doing.

      PLEASE GO TO THIS LINK below and watch the video below to join us in refreshing our vision for IGSL and Asia:

REFRESH YOUR VISION HERE!!

FAMILY LEARNING LESSONS FROM OUR XTRACK TRAINING

      Over the past many months, when we have shared that we were required to return to the U.S. for a 5-week international missionary training laughed at it, asked us if we were going to teach it, or were just confused why we would have to do it. We did do some training and coaching as you can read here if you missed it, but God had more for us. As we have concluded the training and are a week away from getting on the plane to Manila, we wanted to share some snapshots of what really was one of the most spiritually significant summers for our family that we’ve ever had.

Morgan has shared that her highlights of the summer training was getting mentored weekly by one of the MK2MK college students who grew up as a missionary kid in Jordan and is now at Virginia Tech. One of our prayers was that she would be seen and encouraged and God provided.  She shared that the MK2MK training really helped her process much of her international life and struggles and she enjoyed the community.

We noticed that she really thrived as part of the teens program was to teach the elementary kids some of the lessons and she loved teaching the younger kids and we heard she was very good at it.  The thing she is most motivated to do going back to Manila is keep doing daily devotionals with Bible reading that she learned how to do this summer.

When we debriefed, Colin shared that the most helpful part of the training was that it helped him not feel alone and that we’re not crazy for doing what we’re doing and other kids are doing it too. He shared he learned a lot about how important it is to stick up for others even when it’s hard and wants to do more of that when he goes back to school. He played a starring role in a musical the kids all performed at the end of the training and was a natural.

One of the fun things at the end of the summer was hearing that the MK2MK workers really saw a lot of natural leadership in Colin over the summer and that he naturally came alongside some of the younger kids in the program. It shouldn’t be a surprise that by the end of the summer Colin was known by more people than probably any of us 🙂

When we talked about what she learned this summer, Kaelyn impressed us by sharing that she learned a lot about Jesus and how to live in a different country.  When we asked her if there was anything she wanted to do differently in the Philippines as a result of XTrack she shared that she noticed that a lot of times when people got hurt no one noticed or did anything and that she wants to help her friends if they are hurting or sad.

Kaelyn grew up a lot this summer and we’re thankful for the timing of us doing this training – any prior year she would have been in the nursery program and she benefitted so much by being in the elementary program. The metaphor she really resonated with was a plant being uprooted and planted somewhere else as she feels transition deeply.

It did not take long for Christine and I to realize that we were more tired and hurting in some ways than we realized. One of the amazing things about this training was the many resources available for missionary care and we took advantage of as much as possible. But living in a community of people doing what we’re doing was refreshing and so helpful. Our “abnormal” was normal because everyone else is living similar lives!

We had many breakthrough moments as we were able to explore how some survival patterns from early on cemented into normal life patterns that have hindered us in some important ways from dealing with the stress of our reality well and with a supernatural dependence on the Lord. We received great input for each of our spiritual and emotional well-being as well as great input on our marriage and our family.

As we come into the final year of our previous 3 year commitment to IGSL and have some big decisions ahead of us once again, this was a significant summer of the Lord gently reminding Christine and I of how He wants us to walk with Him and showing us some of the ways we try to manage things on our own in a high stress city. And this summer was the first significant experience where our kids were also learning in new ways how to follow Jesus at their level.  The summer has opened up our family dialogue and we are far more prepared to go back as a family than we were a couple months ago.

 Thank you for praying! Wwe needed the equipping, relationships, and care that this training provided in a big way. Desperate might not be too strong of a word, but we have been so thankful that God saw our needs (even ones we weren’t aware of) and provided abundantly.

We can’t thank you enough for your prayers and if you gave to help us cover the cost of coming back for the training. We feel ready to return to Manila and more importantly, we are more united as a family and we have a clear picture of the steps we need to take with one another when we return to our ministry at IGSL training leaders for the Great Commission in Asia. Thanks!