Looking Back, Looking Forward, and Looking Up!

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As 2023 approaches, it is appropriate to look back and recount God’s blessings throughout 2022. Thus we can have the confidence to step into 2023, knowing how God has led us in our past.

Around the world, many souls were saved and congregations planted. In the Philippines, the work among the Tawbuid people has greatly accelerated, with local Adventists now carrying the gospel to neighboring people groups and planting new grand-daughter congregations in the face of fierce opposition from witch-doctors, shamans and spirits. In Himadria (a closed-access country in SE Asia), newly converted children are returning to their homeland and are planting the gospel in their homes and communities. In Mozambique, local evangelists have been trained and are now planting new daughter congregations. In Benin, the work of discipling new leaders for the multiple newly-planted congregations is a mission-critical activity and daughter churches have been planted in Muslim communities. In Greece and Croatia, new house churches have sprung up. In Guinea-Bissau, a brand new project, a beehive of activity has led to multiple baptisms among animists and Muslims, the planting of a thriving congregation, language classes, a Pathfinder Club, and Bible study and youth ministry groups. In the powerful name of Jesus, souls have been wrested back from demonic control around the world, and our deliverance ministry training for pastors and evangelists is expanding into Francophone countries. Missionaries isolated from their people groups have turned to online ministry in their focus language and are now reaching their global diasporas with the gospel, whereas before, they only reached their local communities.

Together with this front-line progress, AFM-Europe was established in April 2022 as a non-profit based in Romania and is now actively recruiting new missionaries from across Europe. AFM-Korea also started and will be actively recruiting missionaries from January 2023 onwards. AFM-Brazil continued to grow and celebrated its 50th missionary to launch since 2018. Meanwhile, Canadian and South African missionaries launched, supported by our sister offices in those countries. Underpinning all this front-line ministry is an army of faithful prayer warriors and sacrificial donors—who are all part of the same story, without whom these Kingdom advances would not be possible. All of this is but a small sample of how God has accelerated His work among the unreached just as the pandemic travel restrictions started to fall worldwide and missionaries could once again access their people groups. To Him be the glory!

Thus far has God led . . . yet there is still much to be done, and so we approach 2023 with our loins girded, ready to follow as He leads. By God’s grace, new projects are launching in Mozambique, the Himalayan region, Japan and the Middle East. For the first time since 2018, missionaries in Africa, Asia and Europe will gather for five-day regional retreats, uniting in prayer, worship, a study of the Word, networking and personal refreshing. The Dream Project will expand to include a heart-language ministry to Muslims across Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. And as in 2022, souls will be won, congregations will be planted, and the banner of Christ will be lifted high. Praise His Name!

Beyond these headlines are the personal realities for AFM missionaries. Separation from family. Malaria and dengue fever. Social rejection and increasing terror threats. Raising third culture kids. Burnout and isolation. Living amidst economic poverty, political instability and the post-pandemic social isolation and mental health tsunami affecting communities worldwide. Aging and increasingly dependent parents. Personal health challenges. Exchange rate fluctuations. Rampant inflation and ever-thinner economic margins. All are challenges that our missionaries must face daily.

So, as the battles of 2022 fade behind us, and we anticipate the spiritual struggles of 2023—when in the name of Jesus Christ we grapple with spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms—we choose to look neither backward nor forward, but upward in faith and with prayer, for we know Jesus is coming soon. This promise is not only the blessed hope but humanity’s only hope! As Jesus taught us, “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28, NRSV). Yes, 2022 was difficult, but God brought us through. 2023 will also be difficult—but God will bring us through until one day, missions are no more. Every tear will have been wiped away, and the only thing that will remain is to worship the Lamb with the redeemed of the ages, drawn from every nation, tribe, language and people. From thence on, the universe will pulsate with one message and one message only: God is love! Maranatha!