Harvest USA is NOT what you think!
Hint: We have a lot to do with missions!
By John Freeman, President
We routinely approach churches to request they add Harvest USA to their missions budget (we rely on God's people for all our support needs). Many churches reply with a response I often hear, "We really love Harvest USA, but you're just not missions; you don't fit into any of our giving categories."
That's ironic! Years ago I was deeply impacted by a seminary professor named Dr. Harvie Conn.Harvie was the missions professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, PA when I was a student. He walked with a limp, literally. That's because Harvie, prior to being a professor, had been a missionary for years in Korea ---- to prostitutes! There, he was grabbed several times by a gang of men while walking down a street, dragged to an alleyway, held down, and had his feet beaten and broken with two-by-fours. He was told, "Quit telling these women about Jesus. "It turned out that the pimp's income was being affected as these women came to Christ and left prostitution.
So, when Harvie spoke, well, you just listened a little more closely. He had earned his stripes, suffering for Christ.One day he told the class, "Today we're going to talk about a different kind of mission field.We're going to talk about an UnreachedPeople Group---a Hidden People Group."
Harvie then talked about the need for mission work in the homosexual community. The church, historically, had a total "hands off" approach to the gay community, and in 1983 it was becoming the fastest growing group in the country. He went on to define a people-group as any group of people who had a self-perceived identity that bonded that group together and facilitated their growth as a specific community. Harvie explained how the gay community was cemented by common political, social, economic, philosophic and psychological identities.
But Harvie didn't stop there. He said the real "Hidden People"were men and women who become believers, and come into the Church bringing all their sexual baggage, sexual confusion and sexual histories, along with the pain of scarred hearts and souls from sexual abuse, pornography, etc. Then they sit there in silence, because these things aren't talked about in the Church. Often paralyzed by the guilt and shame that sexual sin uniquely produces, most have given up hope that anyone cares whether they find forgiveness or freedom. The gospel, if it is the gospel, Harvie explained, must meet these people where they are at, with the hope of a cleared conscience and a changed life. This, he told us, was impossible for them to experience without the love, intervention and assistance of others in the Church.
This intrigued me. Here I was sitting in this class hearing someone I respected saying, "These are the unreached, the hidden, the disenfranchised moral discards of our day. The Church must be about this kind of ministry, both outside and within the Church. "I was also interested due to the work God had done in my own sexually-scarred heart and life. After much prayer and discussion with others, several people caught the vision for such a ministry.Harvest USA was formed and I became the first staff member.
So when a church says, "You're not missions," I want to laugh and cry at the same time! Not missions? You've got to be kidding. Just consider these recent ministry opportunities we had.
- In July I did a half-day seminar at a very poor Bronx, NY, Jamaican Church. They began ministry to the sexually broken in their community and wanted more trainingWe did this as part of our mission work. They couldn't afford to pay, not even our travel expenses up there and back for the day, as we ministered the gospel and trained them. At the end of the day, the pastor told everyone, "I asked them to come help us and they sent the head guy." Then, he began to cry.
- In August I met with the staff and lay-leaders of an inner-city Portuguese Church in Newark, NJ. The church is in a community of 30,000 Brazilian immigrants. Five young people have "come out" at the church in the last six months. The elders know this is the "state of-the-church" today and needed help.In early 2012 we are working toward providing them a whole day's training seminar.
- An Indian Muslim professor asks us to lunch after our presentation to his university class, telling the staff he has a PhD and has published books but doesn't have a relationship with God like they had described. He then begins to ask how to get that.
- At a nearby university, I spoke to a group of 250 students on, "The Gospel And The Gay" ---95% of the students are Asian..... (Indian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese).
- Recently we've received requests to translate Harvest USA materials into Spanish, Farsi, Urdu and Punjabi.
Wow! This all sounds pretty much like missions to me! If you're on a missions' committee, or know someone in your church who is, please advocate for us. Encourage the church to become partners-in-ministry with us. Since the economy has taken a nosedive, we have lost over a dozen supporting churches and about 150 individual donors. We really need more of God's churches to help us. If that's not possible, we also encourage churches to consider an annual "love offering. "Thank you for partnering with us, and praying along with us in this Kingdom missions' work!