Over the past 35 years, I have personally observed significant changes in global missions. The paradigm has shifted away from “foreign” missionaries to “native” missionaries, especially in countries where indigenous cultures and governments are openly hostile to the growth of the church. The same persecution and opposition that have made it difficult for Western missionaries to work in some countries has created significant opportunities for the growth of native church movements.
As a Christian born in India, I am grateful for the immense contribution of Western missionaries while, at the same time, I cannot overstate the value and effectiveness of missionaries that God has raised up from within their native cultures. Advancing Native Missions was founded on the principle that native missionaries are best positioned and equipped to advance the gospel within the least reached regions of the world.
The Shift to Sustainable Ministry Support
Another equally important paradigm shift is now taking place among many of ANM’s native partners. The strategic importance of sustainable ministry is becoming more and more apparent as governments in many regions of the world are clamping down on the use of foreign funds that have been the financial lifeblood of numerous native partners for so long. Sometimes this lifeblood has produced an unhealthy dependency on Western resources. Shifting this unhealthy mindset is of great spiritual and practical importance: spiritually, because our ultimate dependence is upon God Himself, and practically, because the doors to foreign funding are closing in many places.
One way to encourage a shift away from unhealthy dependency is to develop sustainable local support from small business startups. ANM donors have provided startup funding for multiple projects ranging from micro-loans, beekeeping and honey production, fisheries, avocado farms and small-animal food production (goats, chickens, frogs). Each of these projects is helping fund specific native partners on an ongoing basis. From generating wages for local ministry workers to providing food for students in pastoral training programs, these projects sustain and enhance native ministry effectiveness.
Thinking on a Larger Scale
Even as the ongoing value of small business startups has consistently been proven, we began to think about a larger-scale project. What if ANM could implement a bigger project that would benefit many native partners instead of a single one? After years of detailed market research and business planning, and with the approval and participation of our ANM board of directors and interested investors, in early 2020 we established a legally recognized multi-national company to do precisely that. We launched a large goat breeding farm and goat meat and goat milk production business in a particular Asian country. Goat meat is a high-demand, high-financial-return product in this region of the world.
Because ANM runs the business, we are able to share the profits with multiple native partners in the region. They use the funds they receive to send additional workers into the field, plant more churches, and see an increased harvest for God’s kingdom. The profits are generated legally within the local economy and are therefore not subject to foreign funds restrictions. This project is under the supervision of a trusted and talented local leader. None of the investors in this project are expecting a monetary return on their investment. They are only interested in the kingdom return: more native workers supported.
We have learned a great deal from this experience. It has not been easy or simple, but this approach has tremendous potential for the kingdom of God. Locally funded, sustainable ministry is a good thing on its own, and it’s also becoming practically necessary in more places. This bigger venture can now serve as a model for similar projects in other regions of the world. ANM is looking for donors who will support both large and small sustainable ministry projects in the least reached regions of the world.
P.R. Misra is ANM’s President of International Operations.