DEAR FRIENDS AND PARTNERS,
The year was 1983. While traveling through the “Valley of Roses” in Bulgaria, I had a vision… a picture of a large bridge reaching from the United States, across Europe and Russia—deep into Central Asia, at that time only known as the foreboding Soviet Gulag. This bridge consisted of living stones — of people with the same purpose of heart and mind: help resource the suffering church living under the oppressive Stalinist communist regime behind the then Iron Curtain. The message was simple: “Return to the States and BE A BRIDGE… don’t build one.” The motto was clear, “Linking God’s People to Reach the Unreached”, with the underpinning Scripture verses from 2 Corinthians 9:9-15, “…As it is written,’ He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness…“ Upon my return to the States that fall, with help of my local church, The Bridge was launched.
The following year, while writing a summary of the ministry’s activities in the very first Annual Bridge Report, I remember being in tears, overwhelmed and humbled in thanks to God for the generosity of our newfound Stateside partners — a group of people who enthusiastically and sacrificially joined us in our labor to make the vision a reality. Their prayers and financial donations helped build the initial supply routes through which we have been bridging resources to the pioneer mission fields abroad. Over the decades, new partners joined us; together, we helped enable young believers in the nations to grow in faith and knowledge of the Word of God, become more effective in pioneer evangelism, church planting and church leadership, embrace Jesus’ call to make disciples, and reach out to the needy in their local communities through a variety of mercy ministries. We came alongside and helped them in their sowing, planting, and watering—always with the awareness that the growth comes from the Lord, alone, through the love and power of His Spirit! Gradually, the indigenous believers matured, developed their own ministries, and in many cases became financially independent from The Bridge. Our role changed from overseers to equal ministry partners. We call them, in addition to various other like-minded ministers with whom we cooperate in the mission field, HARVESTERS.
Today, thirty five years, more than 10 million dollars distributed, and thousands of transformed lives later on four continents, I am again summarizing the Annual Bridge Report with the same sense of deep gratitude and humility at the privilege of serving the Lord with so many dedicated partners on the home front, and faithful Harvesters abroad.
Those who contribute to The Bridge in 2017, have received this report with a donor statement as the official contribution receipt to their postal address . The Bridge International, Inc. is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit, 501(c)(3) religious organization with EIN no. 65-0100609; any contribution you give is exempt from Federal Taxes.
2017 IN REVIEW — THE PRAYER TEAM
A group of people I have not mentioned above, is a few individuals whom I want to specifically thank and honor: the members of The Bridge Prayer Team. They are a handful of individuals who have been longstanding friends of ours. Each of them are strong individualists who live in diverse states—Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Texas, but they have one thing in common: they feel called by God to watch and pray for the Body of Christ in the nations, and have made themselves available to do the heavy lifting of prayer and intercession for The Bridge – our family, our Stateside partners, the Harvesters in the field, and the church at large. We all meet online once every two weeks to share updates, concerns, prayer requests, and testimonies of answered prayers. They also meet and pray several times a week. They are a blessing to us all, especially to Steve and me at this time, as he is again struggling through some serious health issues.
2017 IN REVIEW – THE HARVESTERS
In November, we published pictures of some of the Harvesters we sponsor and the countries where they serve. They represent only those who have chosen to live and minister openly as followers of Jesus Christ. Others who live in closed or hostile nations to the Gospel and work clandestinely underground, are for security reasons not mentioned in our publications. Characteristic of all the Harvesters are their clarity of vision, personal sacrifices, courage and endurance; standing in faith in face of serious setbacks and apparent insurmountable problems.
They all sense the importance of seeing new believers be transformed into disciples of Jesus and provide them one-on-one mentoring toward leadership through serious, solid Bible teaching and life groups; the emphasis being on cultivating a personal relationship with God and with one another.
If you want to know more about the individual Harvesters and the Projects we sponsor, you will find the information under RECENT POSTS and ARCHIVE on the right sidebar, and earlier issues of The Bridge Report under the PDF ARCHIVE on the horizontal bar at the top.
2017 IN REVIEW — SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS
Varughese Mathew and his wife continue to labor among the orphans in their two orphanages and various unreached indigenous peoples on the Indian Andaman Islands. Following is an example of an urgent, practical need being met by a donation received from one of our partners. Varughese contacted us and let us know the old freezers in their two orphanages used to store meat and fish bought once a week, were broken, resulting in rotten food that had to be discarded. “Could you help us purchase two new freezers?” Due to our partner’s generosity, the immediate answer was, “Yes—the money is on its way!”
Dawa Buthia, an ethnic Tibetan and former Buddhist from Bhutan, founder and leader of Himalayan Good News Networking Ministry has raised up hundreds of pioneer who are now evangelists and church planters spread out into some of the cities and also villages in the more remote Himalayan mountains between Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Tibet. A couple of generous gifts enabled us to help fund their Bible Training Center and resource some of the poorest Bhutanese mountain pastors.
Sargon Daniali is in the midst of a fruitful harvesting field among his Iranian people in Turkey and beyond. There are again demonstrations in the streets of Tehran and other cities against the oppressive Islamic regime; this time the people are less fearful, and more expressive, indicating there is a spiritual hunger in the nation for a new reality. The Bridge has provided Sargon 1,000 Farsi Bibles, and another ministry has given him 20,000 for distribution. Sargon’s online Bible teaching course is progressing very well. He also serves many Turkish churches, and conducted several leadership conferences among Iranian and Turkish believers. His team has translated an excellent book on God’s Covenant from English to Farsi.
Through Sargon, we were introduced to a very effective Christian drug rehab center for Russians and Ukrainians in Istanbul. The Bridge financed an agricultural project (chickens, rabbits, vegetables, fruit trees) which might help the center toward the goal of becoming financially self-sufficient.
Yermek Balykbekov in Karaganda, Kazakhstan is pastoring less at the Sunday services of the larger Russian church – rather focusing more on individual discipling and leadership training among his own Kazakh people. He participated in several leadership conferences in Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, the latter being life-changing. In spite of severe persecution of Christian believers, Yermek met a flock of courageous, fearless, mature leaders, who oversee over 800 underground home-groups in the country, and they are growing!
In Kyrgyzstan, Rustam and Zamira have had a number of fruitful outreaches among children of Muslim and Gypsy families. Just before Christmas, they visited several towns near the Tajik border and presented the Gospel via the Christmas story to people who had never heard—the enthusiastic responses both among the adults and children were very encouraging! an Afghan living in the capital of Bishkek, has so matured in faith while waiting in line for an exit visa to immigrate to a Western country. During this time, the Lord has brought him into a powerful ministry to fellow students, guiding him to present the Gospel through the Qu’aran (Koran).
In Afghanistan a friend is doing an outstanding service in building a community center based on Biblical principles for a local community. The team’s outreach of love and care are touching many people’s hearts –and there is spiritual fruit!
A larger gift designated to relief in Haiti enabled us to send funds through two ministry partners who are effectively rebuilding the lives and communities still recovering from the some of the areas most devastated by hurricane Matthew—more about that in an upcoming report.
In Bosnia, Robert and Sandrina Jurjevich keep on serving the Muslim community in Sarajevo. They had to leave the facility rented for the church and community center, but are in the process of obtaining the ownership of another building which will also include the Woman’s Center led by Sandrina.
A Harvester team dear to our hearts have been called to show up at their city’s airport and meet visitors on incoming flights from the Middle East with Gospel tracts and a video in their own languages. They also spend months walking through immigrant communities in large cities of Europe, going from door-to-door while delivering their literature—hardship and testimonies are their portion! We help with the literature printing.
In South Sudan, we sent funds for a water line to supply fresh water to William Levi’s ministry center on Gordon mountain near the city of Nimule in the southern part of the country. We continue to sponsor Matthew Deng Dut and some of his projects in the capital of Juba. South Sudan is one of the most unstable and volatile places on earth! Undeterred by many obstacles, they and others (the Kuj family in Tonj, and the Starks in Juba) continue faithfully to build community and rebuild people’s lives, even in face war and threats of war!
The Cowley family continue to serve the Pastors of the Least in the slums in Nairobi, Kenya , by teaching and discipling them through their Disciple Support Bible Institute. Every year, the student body grows in numbers and depth of Bible knowledge — they learn to live the Gospel, not just preach it!
Thanks, again, for participating with us in raising the banner of Jesus
Who is the Light in a very dark world!