Partners International connects with local leaders to serve people
On a world map at the entry of the Partners International headquarters at 1119 E. Westview Ct. in North Spokane, pins dot Africa, the Middle East and Southern Asia across the 10th to 40th parallels, where it partners with local ministries in "unreached areas" of the world.
Larry Andrews, who has been president and CEO for five of its 75 years, brought skills from a 27-year career as an executive with Procter & Gamble and then with Hewlett-Packard.
Larry's faith pilgrimage took him from the Catholic Church, out of the church and back into church in college, where he devoted his life to serving Jesus. He realized "God has a purpose for every human being," including him.
Through the years, he has been actively involved with different church ministries—small groups, church plants, home Bible studies, worship teams and Sunday school.
"God always has a place for us to serve," he said.
Feeling that God was calling him out of the business world, Larry retired early to seek his specific calling in ministry. He felt such a call to serve as an executive in a global missions organization that had a Luke 4:18 focus to proclaim the Gospel to the poor, bring freedom to the captives and set the oppressed free.
After six months of prayer and discernment, Larry said, "the Lord led me to serve with Partners International as their chief executive.
"God took 28 years to prepare me to use my business experience in the mission world," he said.
Partners International's ministry reaches "the most oppressive places to be a Christian and the areas of the world that have no Christian presence," said Larry. "We do not send missionaries from the West to these 'difficult areas,' but instead partner with indigenous leaders, empowering the calling they have to reach their own people with the Gospel. Our vision is that local ministries in the least-reached, least-resourced nations will be proclaiming the Gospel to every person and building a thriving church for every person.
"Areas not yet reached are difficult areas, where Christians are persecuted and laws criminalize proselytizing," Larry said. "Every week, we pray for ministers who face significant persecution. We learn what it means to serve Jesus in a persecuted environment.
"We believe the church in the West is to be in relationship with and serve the vision of local ministries, not prescribe how a local mission is to work," said Larry.
Partners International was controversial when it started with that emphasis.
It began when foreign Protestant missionaries were kicked out of China in World War II. Duncan McRoberts, one of the last missionaries to leave, believed his Chinese brothers and sisters could reach their own people for Christ.
In 1943, several businessmen met with him in Seattle to discuss how ministry could continue by investing in local Chinese people who were part of their communities. They formed the China Native Evangelistic Crusade (CNEC), partnering with the ministry of the Rev. Calvin Chao.
By 1949, CNEC sponsored 150 evangelists, helped start two Bible colleges, a seminary and student ministry from an office in Hong Kong. In 1953, its office moved to Menlo Park, Calif. With 500 ministry partners in China, Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America and South Asia, it changed the name to Christian Nationals Evangelism Commission.
By the 1970s, it had 1,250 indigenous ministry workers, 12,500 sponsored children and expanded to Bangladesh and Indonesia, and other Muslim areas.
In the 1980s, CNEC changed its name to Partners International.
Since 1995, ministry workers have presented the Gospel 7.7 billion times, reached 1.5 billion new believers, trained more than 400,000 leaders, started nearly 37,000 new churches and small groups, and provided disaster relief and community development to more than 5 billion people, he said.
Because many were evangelizing in Latin America, South Africa and parts of the world with strong local Christian support and churches, Partners International left those areas.
Since the 1980s, the focus has been on North and Central Africa, the Middle East and Southern Asia, where three billion people have not heard the Gospel, he said.
When he came in 2013, Partners International, which had moved to Spokane in 2001, was struggling. The first three years, Larry traveled to learn about the ministry. He visited 58 partners worldwide, plus western foundations, churches and individuals.
Part of Partners International's mission is to connect U.S. churches, individuals and foundations with its ministry partners. In Eastern Washington and North Idaho, about 50 churches participate.
These connections build relationships so individuals and churches "have a personal expression of making disciples of every tongue, tribe and nation," he said.
For example, North Church on Division, where Larry is an elder, has for three years "had a heart" for Northern Sumatra and connects with a ministry partner in Sumatra. They sent a short-term team there to build relationships, and minister to Muslims and Christians, at their request, by teaching English.
"In the U.S., having mission partners with relationships over a long time establishes a mission heart. I have seen churches change as they are more involved with God's work in the world," Larry said. "Those who have gone overseas have had their life perspectives enriched and deepened."
"We serve Christ best by being in relationship with other mission organizations. We need to do more together than alone," Larry said. "We are part of God's family and belong together not splintered. We can connect around Jesus' mission to make disciples of the whole world."
"Partner relationships involve prayer, financial and non-financial assistance," he said.
Because ministry partners need financial acumen, Partners International arranged for a CPA to go to the Middle East to help three ministries with accounting.
Even in areas of persecution, he believes "the future of the church is amazing. God's church will prevail as we together help ministry partners thrive.
Beyond preaching the Gospel to establish churches, he said tangible, holistic outreach is effective.
"It's not about asking people to simply evangelize, but about showing love to the poor, reaching the whole person economically and spiritually—reconciling the whole human being," he said.
One partner brought food assistance to Ebola victims in Guinea, when tourists stopped coming and international organizations repatriated staff. They educated people on prevention and provided hygiene kits.
Partners International recently raised $72,500 to send a shipping container with $13 million in donated medicines—antibiotics, ointments, aspirin and more—to Senegal. The medicines are for a hospital there that serves the poor.
Partners international also empowers women and children through micro-loans, schools and community development.
In Muslim areas of Indonesia, Larry said they gain access to villages by addressing women's health and illiteracy, establishing libraries, bringing books and courses on women's health.
"It's about loving Muslims into relationship with Jesus by serving in practical ways that meet needs," Larry said. "Jesus preached God's kingdom by healing the sick and serving the poor.
"When we show love in a tangible way to address a specific need, the Gospel transforms communities," he said.
"Partners has taught me what it means to serve Christ," he said. "Our ministry model stretches our hearts to see God's heart."
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, October, 2018