Sustaining the Adoption

One Church's Story:
Adopting the Susu People
by Stan Yoder

The most asked question by churches when considering adopting a people group is, "Where do we begin?" The Brenneman Memorial Missionary Church in Goshen, Indiana, serves as a good example in answering this question and I (Stan Yoder) share this report as a member of the church.

Casting the Vision

Interest in adopting a people group first began with the members of the mission committee. There are three elected members on this committee at our church with the fourth member, the administrative pastor, serving as chair. A special meeting was called at this pastor's home on Thursday evening, February 24, 1994. This meeting was special in that the senior pastor, church staff and members of the church board were all invited.

We began by viewing the short video, "Doing Your Bit," which explains the connection between world evangelization, people groups and how churches can "do their bit" through adoption. My wife, Valli, and I also shared the experience we had while attending the Granada Hills Community Church, a Missionary Church in Granada Hills, California. The entire group responded enthusiastically with the senior pastor and church board members "commissioning" the mission committee to "go for it!" Progress and plans were to be reported to the church board for their approval.

Selecting a People Group

At our next mission committee meeting, we began the process of selecting a people group for adoption. It seemed logical to start with the missionaries we support and discover the people groups they are already discipling. To our surprise, we could not tie a specific people group to any of the missionaries we supported at that time. They were all involved in specialized ministries such as missionary radio, house parents for MKs and the publishing of Christian books. These missionaries all had strategic ministries in the areas of the world where they were located and we would continue to support them, yet we wanted to have a direct connection with a missionary team establishing churches. We wanted to help parent churches in a people group who needed us to care for them.

Therefore, our next step was to consult the World<> Partners database and choose a people group from that list. We decided we wanted to choose one of the least evangelized groups on the list and singled out four groups to pray about: the Pongo of Nigeria, the Susu of Guinea and Sierra Leone, the Bengali of India and the Kyrgyz of Kyrgyzstan. We learned a little bit about each group and over the next several weeks asked God to show us which group to choose.

On our mission committee was a former missionary to India, two former missionaries to Sierra Leone and a young mother who has been praying for a Nigerian tribal group for many years. God had put a special interest in all our hearts for different parts of the world and it could have been difficult to make a decision. Yet because we were set on choosing the group God wanted us to adopt, as we prayed He gently guided us to all agree on the Susu people. This was not done by a majority vote; it was done by agreeing with what the Holy Spirit was telling us individually and as a group through prayer.

The church board quickly approved our decision and we were ready to start the next phase of our adoption process. Although we were sure the Susu people were the right ones, it seemed a bit strange we would choose a group that had already been adopted by the Granada Hills Church in California. It is now clear why God led us that way. In April, 1995, World Partners gave official approval to open ministry in Guinea, West Africa. A number of Susu live in Guinea and were one of the specified target people groups. We realized we were one of the two churches God had already chosen to become involved with this spiritually needy people group.

Educating the Congregation

It was now April as we began our systematic plan for casting vision to the entire congregation. The first thing we did was set a date for our adoption ceremony, November 27, 1994. This would give us at least six months to educate our people, from the young children to the adults. We had already decided we would have four "World Christian Sundays" a year at Brenneman. The next three in May, August and November would be devoted to vision casting and education for adopting the Susu.

I was given the privilege of introducing the concept to the congregation on Sunday, May 22. Our entire service was dedicated to clarifying who the Susu are and what it would mean if our congregation adopted them. The service was highlighted by a skit done by the mission committee. Over the next six months, we visited Sunday school classes, used bulletin inserts and did whatever we could think of to help our people understand who the Susu people are and the serious nature of making a commitment to disciple them.

At our "World Christian Sunday" in August, our assistant pastor once again explained the commitment involved in adopting the Susu people and asked for a show of hands from those who understood and were willing to proceed to the next step. From that show of hands, a clear majority of the congregation was ready to move ahead and make a commitment.

The Adoption Ceremony

Making a covenant with God is a serious thing and we tried to do all we could to impress this upon the hearts and minds of our people. By the time November 27th had arrived, we felt the congregation was ready to enter into the adoption covenant for the Susu people. (See sample covenant below).

As part of our service that day, the congregation read in unison this covenant and then signed their own personal copy, in the form of a bookmark, to take with them. As they exited the service, they also signed larger copies at the doorways of the sanctuary, so the church would have their names on record. During the service, a formal copy of the Susu covenant was signed by the senior pastor, board chair, Missions Committee chair and representative of World Partners. It is on display in the church.

Rev. Jacob Bawa, former president of the Missionary Church in Nigeria, spoke that day and impressed upon our hearts how God would use us to disciple the Susu just as God had used missionaries to bring him to Jesus. Being a visible demonstration of his very message, there could not have been a more moving sermon for us to hear on our adoption Sunday. This ceremony marked the beginning of a big step in faith by our congregation, and indeed, it was only the first step.

What Do We Do Next?

Now that the adoption ceremony has taken place, what has the church been doing? Our commitment has taken on two forms so far, strategic prayer and faith giving. Because there are no World Partners missionaries among the Susu or even any that have volunteered to go, our prayer and giving have started out on a different path than what most churches take when it comes to missions.

Concerning our giving, we now have a Susu fund which is growing every month. The money is being held in escrow until people respond to God's call through our prayers, to go to the Susu. Just think how exciting it will be when people are called to go, not only for our church, but also for those going, when they find out that God has prepared THREE churches to send them! These churches are the Brenneman Church, the Granada Hills Church, and most recently, First Missionary Church, Lansing, Michigan. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all Missionary Church missionaries had three or more churches committed to discipling the people group to which the missionaries have been sent by God? It would be even more exciting if a team was raised up from these churches. It could happen!

Concerning prayer, we are focusing on the Susu people in three ways. First, according to Matthew 9:37,38 we are praying for God to raise up a missionary team to go to the Susu people. Second, through an investigative trip to Guinea we obtained photos, names and short descriptions of ten Susu women and men that our people pray for daily to come to Christ. More than eighty people have signed up to be a Susu prayer partner for one of these ten. We do not know exactly how many are praying, because some of the eighty represent families that pray together for their Susu friend to come to Jesus. Third, for seasoned prayer warriors, we have identified key spiritual strongholds that are keeping the Susu people in darkness. We believe God will remove this darkness in the hearts of the Susu people as we pray, and reveal His glory to them. "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds" (11 Cor. 10:4).

Who Will Go?

We are excited about what God is doing in our church and through our church to take the gospel to the Susu people. Yet I still have one question in my mind as I finish this story. We are ready to send a team; who is willing to go? Wait a minute! This seems almost backwards. Normally missionaries are called and approved and then come looking for churches to support them. Instead, three churches are ready to send a team and must look for workers to go. It is just like Jesus said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few, therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field" (Matthew 9:37,38).

Sample Covenant

We, the people of Brenneman Memorial Missionary Church, covenant with one another and with the Lord to adopt the Susu People of Guinea and Sierra Leone, West Africa, as our spiritual responsibility, to the end that we might be agents in the preaching of the gospel and the formation of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ among this people. We shall purpose as a congregation to become informed about the Susu, to systematically pray for their salvation and for the birthing among them of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. In implementation of this goal, we shall pray the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers to the Susu. We shall seek to support the sending of missionary workers, both prayerfully and financially to the best of our abilities, trusting in the Lord's faithfulness to provide both the will and the means with which to do so. We enter into this agreement beginning this TWENTY-SEVENTH day of NOVEMBER, 1994, until such time as a mature and healthy church has been established among the Susu people.

This article was taken from the Adopt a People guide, a publication of World Partners, the overseas<> ministry of the Missionary Church, US, and Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada. You can order this manual from the Missionary Church for $2.

Missionary Church Mailing Address:
Missionary Church
P/O Box 9127
Fort Wayne, IN 46899-9127
Phone: (219) 747-2027
Fax: (219) 747-5331

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