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The Church-Planting Effort That Failed

The Church-Planting Effort That Failed


Most global workers have a plan for the ministry they want to conduct, complete with ideas about what will work and how. Charles Winters wrote about the beauty of ministry that doesn’t go according to plan in this article, which appeared in the May 1986 edition of The Call and has been adapted for this issue. Charles and his wife, Keet, served in Bolivia for thirty-five years, from 1966–2001, and were involved in the ministries of church planting and education. On January 28, 2020, Charles went to be with the Lord.

In our third term in Bolivia, we moved to a new area on the jungle frontier. To arrive at this location, we had to drive through a Japanese settlement. Concerned, I inquired if there were any churches among them—only to be told there was nothing. Soon we made friends with several Japanese families and found them friendly and open. I asked the Lord to help us get a church started among these families.

Later, I learned there was a family that was Christian. I visited the family and found them to be two families—father and mother, son and wife—all Christians. They were delighted with my visits.

“I announced to the people that this would be the only night, and we would not be able to continue. My church-planting effort had failed.”

I approached the younger man about helping me start a church among his people. He agreed. We made plans to borrow a vacated school building. We put up posters and announced the meetings among the Japanese settlers. When the day arrived, a good-sized group gathered in. I set up the projector to show a Bible film and began the service. We sang two choruses in Spanish, had prayer, and I started to preach. The young Japanese Christian was my interpreter. We didn’t do well, and he became very nervous. I whispered, “What’s the matter?” He replied, “I don’t understand your Spanish.” I quickly closed the message and showed the film. At the close, I announced to the people that this would be the only night, and we would not be able to continue. My church-planting effort had failed.

Some time later, I felt impressed to ask our field executive committee if they would look into approaching Immanuel General Church of Japan to see if they would study the possibility of sending a Japanese couple as missionaries to Bolivia to plant churches among several thousand Japanese.

Quite some time had passed when we heard that the secretary of missions from Japan was coming for a visit to Bolivia and would study the possibility of sending missionaries there. I was asked to take him around to visit some of the Japanese people. He was encouraged with the possibilities.

About a year later, we were informed that Sam and Martha Mitsumori could not secure visas to return to India and had agreed to go to Bolivia. They are now in Bolivia, and God is giving them a marvelous ministry among their own people.

True, my church-planting effort failed—in divine providence! Thank God for the Mitsumoris!


PRAY: How often do your plans not work out the way you’d hoped? Proverbs 19:21 reminds us, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (NIV). Ask the Lord to help you submit to His will for your life and your ministry, even when you think you have a solid plan in place, and that you will be better able to trust that His ways truly are higher than your ways.

The Call (Spring/Summer 2020) 110 Years of Prayer

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