When Mac Sells, Missions Pastor of Cedar Springs Presbyterian church in Knoxville, Tennessee, called the Mobilization Division of the U.S. Center for World Mission seven years ago, he had a problem, but today as a result of taking action on information provided by the Adopt-A-People program his church and the Tuvin people and other unreached peoples have been greatly blessed.
In the last seven years Sells has seen world mission giving go from approximately $750,000 to over 1.8 million dollars. Giving has always exceeded the faith promise pledges and giving to world missions has always exceeded giving to domestic missions which the churches gives about half a million dollars too.
At the start of the 1990s church membership/attendance was 1500 people. In the year 2000 approximately 3400 people attend and are members of the church. "Our church is so excited about missions now that we have a greater attendance on Mission Sunday of our eight day world mission conference, than on Christmas," said Sells. "Our people get so excited to see the missionaries that they have been praying for from all over the world." Sells estimates that Cedar Springs supports at least 100 missionaries.
"We received a set of unreached peoples cards from William Carey Library Publishers and prayed for the peoples on those cards for four to six months," said Pastor Sells. Originally when Sells told mission agencies that his church wanted to Adopt-A-People group he was turned down because most churches don't follow through. Sells was also referred as he thought he would be to supporting individual missionaries who weren't working among unreached peoples.
After seeking the counsel of the Mobilization division of USCWM about his problem Sells and Cedar Springs were given the names of four unreached people groups and background research on those peoples.
The church missions committee prayed about these four groups for a month and they couldn't decide which one to adopt so they adopted them all. They are praying and financially supporting work among the Tuvins in Southern Siberia, the Dong people of China, the Maithili people of India and the Nara people of Ethiopia. "Adopting these four unreached people groups is the best thing that has ever happened to us as a church because it has helped us to keep our focus on unreached peoples," said Sells.
The important keys Cedar Springs discovered were prayer and member involvement for each of their adopted groups. Their programs were designed so that each small group in the church was led by a church member who became an advocate for a different unreached people. If something wasn't happening with the Tuvin prayer group another breakthrough would be happening with the Nara prayer group.
While something good has happened in all of the people groups the church adopted, the greatest impact has happened among the Tuvin people, The Tuvins are a Tibetan Buddhist group of 180,000 living near Mongolia.
Cedar Springs Church has been strongly supporting The JESUS Film Project and gave $100,000 to pay for the entire cost of the Tuvin translation of the film which is the life of Jesus according to the Gospel Of Luke.
In 1997, the premiere of the Tuvin JESUS Film was an exciting day in the history of the Tuvin culture. The people had such respect for the film according to JESUS Film staff that the only sound in the auditoriums was from the actors on screen telling the story of Jesus in the Tuvin language.
All of the seats were filled well in advance in the assembly halls of Kryzl and Shaganar,two Tuvin cities where the JESUS Film was premiered. Many children sat two to a seat. The atmosphere was almost supernaturally quiet and respectful as people heard the words of Jesus in their own language for the first time. Getting the JESUS Film in the Tuvin language is a major breakthrough. The people have always depended on witch doctors to manipulate the spirit world. Now they have a chance to know they can call upon the name of Jesus for healing and salvation.
Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church has also paid for 5,000 children's Bibles in the Tuvin language to impact the next generation.
The JESUS Film project has planted 12 churches in Tuvin cities with Tuvins who have dedicated their lives to Jesus after seeing the film.
The goal of the two film teams Cedar Springs supports is to give every Tuvin the opportunity to see the film and respond to the gospel by the end of the year 2002. The reason the church became so interested in the Tuvins is because they trusted in the integrity of the U.S. Center for World Mission which gave the church the Tuvin name.
The Tuvins who were once a hidden people have become quite famous lately. A documentary in 1999, focus on a unique talent the Tuvins are gifted at called Tuvin throat singing where singers can produce a high note and low note at the same time. The film critic Roger Ebert gave a positive review to the film and called the Tuvin talent amazing on his nationally syndicated television program. The Tuvins were also represented in the internationally famous Rose Parade in Pasadena, California on New Years Day 2000.
"The keys to the success of world missions in our church have been prayer and having a pastor(John Wood) who sees the Bible as a missionary book and preaches sermons almost every other week from the Bible showing the mission emphasis running through every book of the Bible," said Sells
Sells believes that every church can and should get involved with the Adopt-A-People program. "Even a small church can get involved by partnering with a ministry like Interdev that is working with unreached people group. This is how we are working with the Nara people in Eritrea.
Sells said "When you understand that missions to the unreached peoples is what's on God's heart you can't help but be interested in missions."
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