Roger Basick, International Director for the English Conversation Project, a ministry of Reach Beyond, shares this testimony from one of the programme's team members. This is Joshua's* story.
My wife and I came to the Asia Pacific Region 3½ years ago in response to a clear call from Jesus. He invited us to “come” to where He was (Matthew 14:29) and to participate in what He was already doing. We had no experience living in Asia and no work opportunities awaiting us. What we did have was the faith that the Father wanted us there. Our focus for the first two years was language study.
During that time our first challenge was, “How do we reach this community to build trust and develop relationships?” The solution came in a remarkably natural and easy way. A local church had recently started running an English conversation club using Reach Beyond’s English Conversation Project—and they eagerly invited us to participate.
The English Conversation Project (ECP) is made up of a Christian team of broadcasters and teachers who produce scripts, audio programmes, videos, training and conversation starters for ECP club leaders about a multitude of topics. The programmes are distributed around the world via radio, websites and social media. Hundreds of thousands use the website from around the world, but the Asia Pacific Region is a particular “hot spot” regarding interest and hunger to learn English.
Using a very limited vocabulary (about 1,500 words) and very slow, clear speech, the aim is to help people who:
- Practice speaking and listening in English.
- Discuss broader issues about life (temporal and eternal).
We as God’s people are to love Him and love our neighbour, and the ECP builds a bridge into people’s lives with respect, honesty, openness and love. It is not manipulative or impersonal evangelism. Instead, through slowly building relationships, we are given permission to talk, question, laugh and think together. We want every member of the club to feel of worth and value to us (and so to the Father). Our members see who we really are, what we are like and how we behave, relate and reflect Jesus to them. This carries far more weight and honesty than mere words—whatever language we use!
Our local church club is very encouraging, but God has far bigger plans! In October 2015 I was asked by the international church to establish a new ECP Club in the office block where the church meets, aimed at the local employees. This proved successful, so a club began meeting next door on a different day. In mid-2016 a café became the basis for a new ECP Club and it too is about to launch another club. Club members keep in touch with each other for encouragement and joint celebrations such as Christmas. All are experiencing the deepening of friendships, and the natural way to live and share life and the gospel.
God is doing a wonderful thing in opening the spiritual atmosphere and giving believers approval in the community. It is clear that many years of prayer are resulting in softer hearts and bearing fruit. There are innumerable cases of lives rescued and drug addicts/marginalised people coming to know Jesus, having a favourable impact on the attitudes of government.
However, there are millions outside of the major cities. We feel a growing passion and burden to reach out to these people who often seem to be ignored by workers who rush to the big cities where the minority groups live. Churches are few, divided and often persecuted by harsh provincial governments. However, through Reach Beyond’s English Conversation Project, we have a bridge into these areas.
Members of a registered church were wondering how to reach the community, so the English Conversation Project seemed a straightforward way! There are few foreigners and little opportunity to learn or practice English. My wife and I travel there weekly to help lead, support and encourage the church until local people can take over. The leaders are moved and overwhelmed with gratitude to see people willingly coming into their church buildings to meet, talk and develop relationships.
Many places in Asia have a strong family-oriented culture. This sounds good until you discover it often creates frustration, loneliness and hopelessness in the young adults. ECP Clubs are a marvellous opportunity for young adults to socialise and engage with each other and discover new values and opinions. Community building as well as outreach—something we had never imagined!
And there’s more! A club has started in the heart of one of the government offices. This is aimed at local government workers who again are becoming exposed to Christian values, attitudes and ideas way outside their usual experiences. They are enthusiastic, open, honest, engaging and hungry! And as I write, there are rumours of more ECP Clubs starting in other cities in the region!
There are so many opportunities here in this wonderful, crazy, infuriating and irresistible place! Truly the “harvest is ripening and the labourers are few." I have a big vision and imagination of rolling out English Conversation Project clubs throughout the dark places. Yet we must always commit ourselves, our hopes and dreams to Him. In obedience, may we always “go in His flow” to whomever and wherever He wants us. My wife and I felt that nearly four years ago when we started this adventure of faith, and the feeling is still as strong today!
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Discover more about how you can be involved with the English Conversation Project.
* Name changed for security reasons