Forgotten Missionaries International: Building partnerships to empower indigenous church plantersThis is the second article in our new “Spotlight” series that homes in on our primary intent of “Connecting the Church in the West to news of what God is doing through nonprofits around the world.” This article shines the Spotlight on Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI), based in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.
FMI was founded by retired missionaries Ed and Mabel Todd in 1986 as he witnessed a unique problem that had unfolded as foreign missions were transitioning into the vision advocated by Dr. K.P. Yohannan in his ground-breaking book Revolution in World Missions.
Dr. Yohannan realized that the ability to send missionaries to foreign countries was in serious jeopardy. Emerging nations, often inspired by a renewed spirit of nationalism, had begun closing their doors to American missionaries. What is more, the cost of supporting missionaries on foreign fields was becoming economically impractical.
Yohannan promoted the idea of training locals who had become followers of Jesus to carry out the Great Commission in their own countries, demonstrating and sharing the love of Christ among their own people.
Yohannan’s vision was first realized with the establishment of GFA World (formerly Gospel for Asia) in 1979.
Seven years later, when Ed Todd was teaching at a Bible college in the Philippines, he realized that many who had received support from Americans as students, “became forgotten” after they had graduated. He saw the need to come alongside those young pastors as they labored in countries where people were either unfamiliar with Jesus Christ or antagonistic toward Christianity.
Yohannan had realized this need in the Gospel for Asia’s early years because, having been born and raised in India, he already understood the local missionaries’ need for continual training, encouragement, spiritual, and financial support. Ed Todd was one of the first Westerners who recognized the importance of providing that support structure for national missionaries.
FMI’s strategy is to empower national missionaries by ensuring that the rest of us do not forget them. FMI self-describes as “not a sending organization [but] and empowering organization,” paralleling the pastoral support ministry of GFA.
FMI supports local pastors in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, three of the most non-Arabic, Muslim nations where Christians comprise a single-digit percentage of the entire population.
- Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation in the world after China, India, and the United States and is the largest Muslim-dominated nation on the planet.
- Bangladesh has the eighth-largest population in the world – about half that of the United States – crammed into space the size of Iowa. Nearly 90 percent of its people are Muslim.
- Pakistan is about 95 percent Muslim. Evangelical Christians comprise less than one percent of the population and are often suffer intense persecution under the country’s blasphemy laws.
The “forgotten missionaries” in these countries labor under conditions that are difficult for Westerners to imagine. As GFA does, FMI often uses assumed names and generic pictures from the mission field for the security of those local pastors and missionaries.
FMI notes that:
“Our indigenous church planters and disciple-makers do not need visas to live or work there; they already speak the language, understand the culture, and enjoy significant relationships with people in their communities.”
Please pray with us for the Lord’s continued blessings on evangelical, faith-based organizations like GFA and FMI who are making the Revolution in World Missions possible through Him.
To read more Missions Box Spotlight articles, go here.