Feature

Hands Across the Water

A church accepts the challenge to partner with a field

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“We can pray for Alliance missionaries around the world, and we can give to the Great Commission Fund, but it’s different when you go to the field yourself and live among the people,” says Timothy Allen, lead pastor of Glenview Alliance Church in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. “Burkina is not just another Alliance field; it has become our field.”

Ever wonder how a church forms a partnership with a mission field? In Glenview’s case, many factors led the church in a specific direction, making it clear that it is pleasing to the Lord for our congregation to be involved in this part of the world—West Africa—for this time.

Unfinished Business

One of the first indicators that God wanted us to invest more in African missions came at the 2005 Glenview Alliance Family Festival of Missions. Pete Brokopp, C&MA missionary to Burkina Faso, encouraged the people of Glenview to not just be sad about the plight of the urban poor in Africa but to do something about it. After Pete and his wife, Alice, shared their vision for Alliance work in Burkina Faso, Pete challenged the church to make a long-term commitment to the field by adopting a ministry project—something our church could do for Burkina that the national church could not do alone.

Pete’s message fell on the fertile ground of a church that was ready to act. Glenview had sent a short-term team to Burkina 10 years earlier, and some who went had a sense of unfinished business. Now the church had the chance to take the next step.

In December 2006, two of Glenview’s three pastors and other leaders in the church flew to Burkina to investigate possible projects. This team explored various partnership options by “sampling” some of the work. They roofed a church, visited a village in the bush and became better acquainted with missionary and church leaders.

Partners with Patte

After the group returned, the Glenview elders decided to forge a five-year partnership with the Patte d’Oie Alliance Church, an urban congregation in the capital city of Ouagadougou. Glenview Alliance chose this project because the Patte d’Oie church has an innovative youth center that reaches out to university students, and Glenview also has a strong youth group. Since many current Alliance missionaries went on short-term missions trips as teenagers, Glenview wanted to provide the opportunity for its youth to experience missionary life, making them open to whatever God might have for their lives.

A second trip followed in February 2007, led by me (Andrew Knisely), the church’s associate pastor. To help the Patte d’Oie congregation reach out more effectively to children and university students, this team converted a storage area at the church into a coffee bar. The team also dug footers for the expansion of the church’s sanctuary and to add offices and dormitories for the youth center.

Officially Involved

On Sunday, June 6, 2007, the pastors and elders signed a covenant that was retroactive to the decision to partner with the Patte d’Oie Alliance Church: “As a result of God working in our hearts, the leadership and church family at Glenview Alliance Church believe that God is leading us to make such a commitment. Beginning in January 2007 and for the next five years, we commit ourselves to adopting a ministry project by sending at least one team per year to work on our adopted project.” Pete Brokopp also signed the document on behalf of the field. (One of the concerns people expressed about the project was that it would limit the church’s impact to just one Alliance field. However, since the partnership was signed, the church has sent three of its own couples to serve in other Alliance fields.)

Instead of other charitable activities they had undertaken in the past, Glenview’s students will do a fund-raiser to benefit ACCEDES, the relief and development arm of Burkina’s national C&MA church. Chris Coakley, pastor of student ministries, says, “It just makes sense for all of us to be focusing on one main project so that we can do it well.”

In addition, Pastor Tim and his wife, Susie, were invited to become the pastoral care couple for the missionaries in Burkina. “This would have been unthinkable had our church not established the partnership,” Pastor Tim remarks.

Beyond Church Walls

The Lord continues to show His pleasure with Glenview’s missions commitment by blessing ever-growing connections between the church and the field. One example is the exciting synergy between Glenview’s biker ministry and Burkina Faso. Motorcyclists from Pennsylvania and Maryland come to Glenview every spring and summer for special events. Members of Glenview’s biker ministry felt led to designate “trikes” for crippled polio victims in Burkina as their special project. At a recent “Blessing of the Bikers,” an elder who had gone to Africa challenged the church and its biker guests to consider the poor in Africa. With tears in his eyes, Dwaine Flemmens told the congregation, “You will never understand the impact that one trike can have on the life of a polio victim until you see it firsthand.”

The church’s goal was to raise enough for 10 trikes, around $3,500. Because of the many bikers present, more than $12,000 was raised, enough to make more than 30 trikes! Through this gift, Glenview members and guests who may not regularly attend church shared the priviledge of giving the gift of mobility to some of the world’s poorest people.

This year, the church held creative fund-raisers so that those outside the church can continue to help fund the effort. Interestingly, giving to the Great Commission Fund (GCF) has not suffered since the church began its partnership with the Burkina field. In fact, the partnership has actually helped GCF giving because people now understand how their monies are being used. A short-term missions fund was also started at Glenview.

Glenview also decided to convert its parsonage into a missionary residence, called Elisha’s House. This year, Steve Nehlsen and his family are living there. Despite their tour obligations as Alliance missionaries, the Nehlsens participate in many of Glenview’s activities. By the way, the Nehlsens serve the Lord in . . . you guessed it—Burkina Faso.

A Place to Call Home

It’s a basic human need: shelter. Our homes are precious to us. My husband, Steve, and I, just finishing our fourth term as Alliance missionaries in Burkina Faso, West Africa, were faced with the challenge of finding a furlough home. But the anguish was deeper for me. Since Steve and I are in our late forties, I began to struggle with knowing that we were not “homeowners.”

Then I read in Numbers 18:20 that God gave an inheritance to all the tribes of Israel except one, the Levites—the priests. I told the Lord that this seemed unfair to me—these were the ones waiting on the Lord and taking care of His altar. Immediately, I felt Him responding, I am your share and your inheritance.

Amy, I am your Home. I am your Front Door. I am your Back Door. I am your Sidewalk, your Mailbox, your Fireplace, your Comfy Couch. I am your Home, your Dwelling Place—your Inheritance . . . and as soon as you understand this, you will be truly “at home” in Me forever. What a turning point!

Soon after this, Glenview Alliance Church gave us the opportunity to use “Elisha’s House,” their missionary residence, while we were on home assignment. Steve and I gratefully accepted. God had provided beyond our imagination. When our term was over, we had a place waiting for us.

In Africa, one of our main ministries had been to work beside Nyagali Traore, the Alliance Women president in Burkina Faso, to establish Dorcas House, a center for girls at risk in the city of Ouagadougou. The Alliance Women of Burkina had become passionate about this project, and our missionary team had the privilege of coming alongside them to see this dream become a reality.

This fall, 15 young women, aged 15–25, found a place to live at Dorcas House. But our deeper prayer is that they will find their real home in Jesus. As He reminded me, He is their Dwelling Place. Rather than the loneliness, isolation, hunger and pressure to compromise by doing things they don’t really want to do, these girls will find a place to rest, eat well, learn to read and write, know the Word of God and learn life skills.

This has been an amazing time of blessing in our lives as we make this connection: God released me from the need to own my own home and gave us the joy of helping to provide the Dorcas House for homeless girls. And He used Glenview Alliance to take us in.

We all need a place to call home.

—Amy Nehlsen, C&MA missionary

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