Gospel opportunities in pro-life work

Mark: I’m really excited today to be talking with Alex Copeman of ABWE. Alex thanks for joining us today to do a little Passion Life recording.

Alex: Yeah. Good to be here, brother.

Mark: Yeah. A.B.W.E. stands for Association of Baptists for World Evangelism. Is that right?

Alex: You got it.

Mark: Okay. And your title is Missions and Media Coordinator. Maybe you can just share with us what your title is.

Alex: Yes, sir. Director of Communications and Media. A.B.W.E. as a mission has about a thousand missionaries serving in 70 countries.

Mark: Yep. That’s exciting. We have had an ongoing relationship with A.B.W.E. for the last couple of years. I think Adrian connected us and it’s been great to get to know you guys and what you do. It’s been a real blessing to us.

Alex: Yeah, we’ve been encouraged too.

Mark: Alex I was hoping that we could talk about a couple of things today. One of the things that I had been sharing with people that was a bit of a revelation for me, or maybe the better way of saying it is it was an affirmation for me, you and I were emailing about two years ago. You were talking about Scott Russell, who is, or at that time, I assume he still is your Executive Director for Latin America. Is that right?

Alex: Yeah.

Mark: Okay. You were saying that he had been highly focused on pro-life ministries in Latin America, and you said he, meaning Scott, like you has seen firsthand that our pro-life ministries are some of the most evangelistically fruitful forms of outreach across the globe. For us, that’s compared against a thousand missionaries, as you said, working in 70 plus countries. Is that still something that you’ve noticed as a trend?

Alex: Yeah. I mean, without having hard numbers in front of me, I’d say it is. And it’s because of so much evangelism. You have to have cold contact evangelism. You’re building relationships in all sorts of ways. But anyone who’s been in the weeds of ministry knows that the time that you spend with a person in any kind of a crisis situation is worth vastly more time than you would spend with the person outside of that crisis period of time. Right? That the potential for trust building and relationship building is so much higher in that time. People are looking for answers in those scenarios. That’s when, it seems providentially, God is sovereign. It’s not that humans are opening their own hearts, but, but God is sovereign.

And it seems that hearts tend to be really open at the gospel in some of these encounters.

Mark: That is exactly what we have found to be true because these people, even when they don’t consider themselves to be a spiritual or religious people, are open to any answer that they can get to the present crisis. They are open even to spiritual answers to the crisis that they are facing. Would you agree with that?

Alex: Absolutely agree with that. A.B.W.E. is sometimes asked questions like: What type of ministry do you prioritize? Do you prioritize or do you handle the whole picture? Do you believe in advancing the gospel first and foremost, or do you believe in the whole person needing to be built up? Maybe that’s the calling of missions and, really at the end of the day, these things dovetail. They are not always mutually exclusive because when the gospel is proclaimed, oftentimes, it’s because a person has been providentially prepared through some sort of a crisis in their life. They’re really beginning to come to the end of themselves. You know, so much of evangelism tries to convince people that they have a need. And so what better idea than to start with people that already know that they have a need of some sort. Now, we know in our culture today that there are lots of people who pursue abortion because they are in rebellion against God and very set in a certain direction. We also know that there’s others who are being directed that way by others who are maybe going, not out of necessarily bitterness, but more desperation. There is a variety of conversations that can be had along the way in which the gospel is the answer. And then over on the prioritized side of things, yes, we are advancing the gospel, but we’re also meeting those needs as Christ has called us to do so. We are not only continuing to pursue those ministries as an organization, as A.B.W.E., we’re working on a new ministry partnership that we’ll be ready to announce here in the coming months as well. Again, there’s a growing number of believers that are seeing the nexus of the life issue with the issue of the gospel.

I’ll mention this as well, Mark, I know you guys talk about this all the time as well. The need we have to talk about unreached people groups in the context of missions. Right? We’re talking about people where, generally, less than 2% of the whole population is evangelical. We figure that, chances are, the majority of those people haven’t heard the gospel yet, so let’s prioritize them. There’s much work to be done on that front. Well, similarly, 98% of pro-life funding stays within the US, yet 2% of abortions, worldwide, happen within the United States. So 2% of funding is going to where the majority of the problem exists. Right? We have another disparity there. We need to be focused on advancing the gospel globally. And it seems that the way to do that is to advance life centered ministries.

Mark: Amen. I remember learning to do evangelism in an evangelistic ministries course when I was in college. The guy who was disciplining me often talked about windows of opportunity. He talked about how windows of opportunity opened in people’s lives. Where they seem to be, statistically, a more fertile ground for the gospel is when they got married, when they had a baby, when they were looking at the crossroads of maybe a new job or moving to a new town or a new place, or when somebody who was really close to them passed away. These are the times that the heart is open to listen, if you will, to spiritual input. These circumstances seem to make the heart more willing to receive the gospel.

And we found that pregnancy help is another one of those times, especially, and maybe more acutely, because it is, again, a crisis of pregnancy. John Ensor is always beating the drum about how any crisis, especially a pregnancy crisis, is a crisis of faith. When a woman, couple, or a family is looking off into the future and seeing a baby that they didn’t want or didn’t expect, they can’t help but wonder how, or even if, things are gonna work out for her. She’s open to a God that she doesn’t believe in showing himself for the first time. She may be praying to this God that she doesn’t believe in for the first time, saying, “If you’re there, help me.” That really isn’t an affirmation of what we have found to be true with Passion Life.

Alex: I would also say another principle of evangelism is there’s certain inescapable concepts, right? One of them is that we’re all worshipers. It’s not a matter of whether you worship, it’s about who or what you’re worshiping. And similarly, when you’re in a crisis moment, it’s not a matter of whether or not you’ll turn to some sort of a spiritual solution, but which spiritual solution that you’ll turn to?

We work in Papua New Guinea. We have a medical clinic in the village of Saigu in the Garoka district, and that clinic sees upwards of 20,000 patients per year. Many of them are mothers with unplanned or unexpected pregnancies. In Papua New Guinea, tribal violence is common. Rape culture is predominant across the society. We see so many women and the spiritual answer that they receive in their moment of need has to do with animistic religious traditions. They’re taught that it’s not a human in you, it’s something demonic. It’s something subhuman. Now we have our own scientific versions of those false ideas about the unborn here in the secular West, right? It’s just a clump of cells, but over there it’s something very different that ties in with this sort of spiritist worldview. They’re taught to be afraid of the idea of something growing inside of them. What an important time for the gospel to come in with, not only the hope of Jesus Christ, absolutely that, but a baseline biblical awareness of what it means to be made in the image of God or what it means to be a human being in the first place, born or unborn. Our missionaries, by God’s grace, are able to provide some of those answers.

Mark: Yeah, it’s important to be there at those times. And I will begin to wrap up our time with another quote from the same email stream that you and I shared in March of 2021 after you and I began to speak about how fruitful pregnancy help outreach had been in both your experience and the experience of Passion Life around the globe. Scott Russell, your Latin America Executive Director actually jumped in and this is a direct quote from Scott. He wrote, “In Lima, Peru, not long ago, we celebrated 20 years of pro-life ministry. In addition to all of the baby’s lives that have been saved and rescued, that ministry alone has seen over 2000 people come to Christ during that time period, more than all our other ministries in Peru combined.”

Again, that is another affirmation of our ministry, and I assume A.B.W.E. is doing all kinds of wonderful, important, difficult work in Peru. Probably working with street kids and orphans, in theological training, in church planting, university ministry and who knows what else. So many people are looking for help in the Lima pregnancy help center and so many of them come in with an open heart to find not only rescue for their crisis, but rescue for their souls through A.B.W.E. there.

Alex: Amen to that testimony of that story. One thing that you’ve found as a mobilizer and speaker on these issues, Mark, you know that sometimes we as believers, as pro-life believers, just don’t love to think about this topic, unfortunately. Even though we don’t love to think about this topic that this thread runs through, it is the thread of the tapestry of all of the other ministries with which we’re involved. Individuals that have been through these clinics, they’re able to get plugged into church plants. We’re primarily a church planting mission. We’ve just found that this is an incredible platform through which to get people connected into the life of the local body of Christ. In that Saigu clinic in Papua New Guinea that I mentioned earlier, that clinic is located on the campus of a Bible college. We have stories of young ladies who were enrolled in that program being discipled. Through unfortunate circumstances in their lives, including sexual assault and rape, they found themselves in these situations where they didn’t know what to do regarding a pregnancy and the body of Christ was there for them. At the same time, this Bible college ministry in Garoka is raising up the next generation of future pastors and ministry leaders who are equipped to take the gospel throughout that nation. This is just one of the things that the body of Christ does when we come together. We plant churches, we share the gospel, we engage in medical missions, and engage in works of mercy through all sorts of ways. This is one of those indispensable ways in which it seems that the Lord is working through. We know that if we want to be involved in how the Lord is working, let’s join him where he’s already visibly at work instead of necessarily trying to make something happen where we don’t already see progress taking place.
Mark: Well, our experience at Passion Life has been that A.B.W.E. is doing fantastic work around the globe. We’re thankful for the partnership that we have with you guys. Because most of the Passion Life followers who regularly watch these videos have never heard of us doing work in Papua New Guinea, they’ve been following us as we’ve been working around the world. Can you just give us one or two prayer points for that Saigu clinic in Papua New Guinea that the Passion Life faithful can pray for A.B.W.E. missionaries there?

Alex: Yeah, I’ll give you two prayer points. In particular, the clinic has been there for 30 years. The Bible College has been there for 50 years. Both of them have rapidly aging facilities. We’re looking at, over the next four or five years, about $6.7 million needed to not only repair, but to also grow and expand this campus for long-term growth. So that from that Bible College and the Saigu Clinic ministry. Please pray that the needs can be met and for a new life to be brought to this particular nation so that an army of trained, indigenous, church leaders and missional believers can go out and impact some of the more remote tribes in Papua New Guinea. You can go to abwe.org/garoka to learn more about that particular project happening there.

Be in prayer for the campaign that’s underway. Mark, you also know in Matthew 9:38, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” We are so grateful for those who give sacrificially to advance the gospel in these ways financially. Please pray for workers. Pray for individuals willing to go and embed themselves in these clinics and to train nationals in how to continue that ministry. Pray that the Lord would provide those who are willing to embed themselves as evangelists, as makers of disciples and as church planters because we find that there is still a need. The harvest is still plentiful, but we need laborers sent out by solid sending churches that can hold the rope. We need qualified men and women gifted to serve in that cross-cultural way. We would love your prayers for those clinics as well as the ones across Latin America that you’ve talked to, that Scott Russell has been leading. We appreciate the work of Passion Life as well. We’re so grateful for the partnership with you all.

Mark: Amen. Well said. A.B.W.E. is not a rival. Some missions and some church organizations think of other people who do the same thing that they do as a rival. These guys are partners and we believe that God has enough money to fund both of our ministries. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He has enough ear to listen to prayers for both Passion Life and A.B.W.E. Passion Life Faithful, we encourage you to get involved with A.B.W.E. and the work that they’re doing around the globe. Alex, thanks for taking the time to join us today and I look forward to talking to you again in the future.

Alex: Thanks, Mark. Lord bless.