Category Archives: General Missions

South Africa – March 2018: Day 4

The gospel’s proclamation and protection are paramount, even across cultures. This is evidenced not only in our own country, but throughout the world, where many seek to distort the gospel or declare a different gospel. This can even be seen in how the church lives out its primary responsibilities, in both the congregation and in matters of leadership. Thus, it’s crucial that we preach and teach a faithful and biblical understanding of the gospel and how the church is to display, in both the way she carries out her duties and helps promote and protect that faithful witness. It’s to that end that over the course of this week, we (the ‘Ryans’) led a pastoral training on elders, deacons, and the congregation for refugee pastors.

We were incredibly encouraged during our time. These pastors, many from Zimbabwe and the DRC, received such teaching with humility and with careful thought and response. They are clearly thinking through such matters and were challenged by the biblical truths they heard. They asked good questions as they sought ways to practically implemented the marks of healthy church leadership into their own cultures and contexts.

Many of these pastors are coming from difficult circumstances in the countries they have left, and currently facing many struggles in the flocks they lead here in Durban. These struggles range from sheep looking for a job in a new country to being separated by miles from family.  The work of shepherding is a challenging and yet rewarding task, even among the sojourner and stranger in a very literal sense, as they see lived out on a daily basis.  We came away with a deeper appreciation for these brothers to see the Bible be held up as the rule by which we help lay the groundwork for a faithful, corporate gospel witness.  We are also better attuned to how to pray for and encourage these men, as they serve both the Word and the physical needs of the body of Christ.

Durban needs healthy churches. It is ripe with opportunity for the gospel to be made known, particularly in the hard and often-overlooked refugee community in which the Yngsdals serve.  We pray that our short time with these pastors will bring about fruit not just in their own lives, but in the lives of the churches they shepherd. Pray with us that the Lord would build his church in Durban on the solid foundation of His Word, and that these churches would lead and love one another in such a way that the glory of God and the good news of Jesus Christ is clearly put on display for the whole world to see.

Ryan Martin & Troglin


South Africa – March 2018: Day 3

Today, the college side of our team (Amie, Kyle, Jake and I) helped lead a youth conference for the Christian youth of the area. The Yngsdals informed us that many of the refugee youth are typically not discipled and do not get much training. The hope was that we, being similar in age, would be able to shed a light on what it looks like to be a faithful Christian and church member while at university.

After much thought, we decided to talk about evangelism and discipleship. We wanted to give them practical tools to go and share the gospel with their friends and their family. We desired for them to have tools to play their own role in fulfilling the Great Commission, outlined in Matthew 28:18-20. Yet not only did we desire for them to have these tools, we desired for them to understand the importance of discipleship.

To kick off this conference, we worshipped the Lord through song. Three of the refugee youth-led worship, Michael, Ralph and Frances (Siyabonga). All of them sang, played the keyboard and the drums, and were extremely talented in them all. We sang Our God, Reckless Love, and a song in their language. It was so beautiful and refreshing to sing with these brothers and sisters in Christ. What a joy to live worlds apart, in very different cultures, and yet worship the same God.

After singing, we led the youth through the two topics. We started with evangelism, walking them through specific tools they could use. We started with storying, explaining how they can use any story in the Bible to share the gospel with someone. We then walked them through God, Man, Christ, Response and the Three Circles evangelism tool.  Finally, we explained the concept of testimonies and how they could use their own stories to tell of all God has done in their life, through the power of the gospel. We had them team up in groups to practice using one or more of these tools. Initially, we were all wary of how well this practice session would go, afraid they would just spend the time talking to one another, instead of actually using the time to practice. However, the Lord is so good! As we walked around to answer any questions they may have had, we were encouraged to hear every group seeking to practice using these tools. In addition, it was expressed various times how thankful they were to be taught practical tools they can use to evangelize.

After giving them time to practice, we spoke to them about the importance of discipleship. We read 2 Timothy 2:2 and informed them if the example of Paul and Timothy. We taught that they need to have a Paul in their life as well as a Timothy.

Once this training was done, we sat down for a time of Q&A where we asked them questions about South Africa and they could ask us questions about the United States. These questions ranged from likes/dislikes to news to religion.  It was a wonderful time of cultural exchange where both sides got to understand how the other views the world.

Overall, this youth conference was a wonderful time. We all left encouraged by the deep desire these youths had to learn about evangelism and discipleship. We left knowing them better and gained an understanding of their worldview. Pray these youths would continue to seek the Lord faithfully, seeking to both evangelize and disciple. 1 Timothy 4:12 states “Do not let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” Pray these youth would cherish and live out the word of God.

Many Blessings,

Brianna Leavell


South Africa – March 2018: Day 2

After the girls led a Bible study with the sewing class (see post below), Kyle and I had an opportunity to lead a Bible study on Dreadlock Corner. Many of the locals that attended the Bible study were either hairstylists that worked at the street corner or friends of the hairstylists, most all of which were Zulu or Zimbabwe refugees. Dreadlock corner is a hard place to do ministry, and yet the Yngsdals have continued to pursue them with the gospel.

The passage that Kyle and I focused on during the study was Ephesians 2:1-10, and we tried to keep the lesson as simple and gospel-centric as possible. We were able to explain to the refugees that God has beautifully and wonderfully created us in His image (Genesis 1:27), for His glory. But because of Adam and Eve’s original sin (Romans 5:12), we are born into a state of natural rebellion toward God and are by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3), unable to please God without a perfect mediator in our place (Romans 3:10-12). “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” (Ephesians 1:4-5). And because of Christ’s final and complete work of redemption on the cross, we can be justified by faith and have peace with God (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:6-9).

Please pray for the ministry on Dreadlock Corner that fruit would continue to come from the Yngsdal’s work there.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Jake Adel


South Africa – March 2018: Day 2

Two full days in Durban have quickly passed. Today was a day of teaching, as all six of our team members had the privilege to teach the Word to refugees. Our ministry began at a sewing class for women, where Brianna and I taught the story of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well. Teaching the Bible amidst cultural and language barriers was a bit out of both of our comfort zones, but I truly believe that the Lord used our imperfect teaching for the glory of His name. While we were encouraged to speak slowly and use simple English with the refugee women, this proved to be no easy task, and we had to make adjustments to our teaching along the way. I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:9 where God tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God used our teaching to show the women what it means to drink of Christ’s living water, the only water that eternally satisfies our souls. When I asked the women if they had trusted in Jesus as their source of living water, most of them smiled from ear to ear and nodded emphatically. What a sweet, sweet blessing it is to know that I have sisters in Christ who look different than me, act different than me, speak a different language, and live halfway across the world, yet we have all things in common through the blood of Christ. What a beautiful foretaste of heaven.

Please continue to pray for our ministry, as Brianna and I will be teaching the same lesson to a different group of women on Friday.

In Christ,

Amie Westerman


South Africa – March 2018: Day 1

Sawubona! Hello from the South Africa team! We just finished up our first day in Durban after several delays. The entire team has learned about the most important attitude to have on a mission trip—flexibility. Here is a picture of our team pictured from left to right:  Amy Westerman, Brianna Leavell, Ryan Troglin, Ryan Martin, Jake Adel, Kyle Smith, Julie Yngsdal, and David Yngsdal.

Our first flight was late on Friday, so we missed our connecting flight in Dallas, which delayed the trip by a day. However, when we first arrived it was so great to see David and Julie Yngsdal. Since then, we have been spending a lot of time with them and have been greatly encouraged by their ministry and joyfulness in the Lord. This morning, we all woke up with jet lag but were quickly restored with a good breakfast and coffee with Jeremiah and Amy, some of the Yngsdal’s friends. They have two awesome kids named Elijah and Grace and have been South Africa for a little while now. Jeremiah told us about his ministry with Bible Talks (a ministry of Pioneers) on college campuses. They hope to share the good news of Jesus Christ through the use of the Bible. They have a regular meeting on Friday on campus and regularly do evangelism around campus.

The first part of our day consisted of going to campus with Jeremiah and the Yngsdals and participating in walk-up evangelism. However, once again, we had to learn to be flexible and trust in the Lord’s plan. The main area of the campus was having a student strike because of complications with housing prices, so we were not able to do evangelism there due to safety concerns. As we began moving to other areas of the campus, we began to engage in some conversations with the students. One of those conversations with the Yngsdals resulted in a young lady accepting Christ as her Savior. Please pray that she would continue to grow in knowledge and love of Christ. Jeremiah will continue meeting with her, as he resumes his ministry on campus. What a great reminder of God working all things according to the counsel of His good and perfect will!

After the initial part of the day, we continued to get to know the Yngsdals by seeing a lot of the places in Durban that they frequent for ministry. It was around this time that we began to see their desire for the Durban refugees to come to know the Lord. They shared stories and showed us their main ministry area on Dreadlock Corner. Yes, you read that right! One of their main ministry opportunities is among refugees who sell and insert dreadlocks in people’s hair. We finished the night at their house and hearing how they each became interested in missions. They shared about frustrations and encouragements in ministry. However, at the end of it all, they were able to say that the Lord provides in ways that are much better than anything that we could provide.

One year ago, Dreadlock Corner had been one of the most difficult ministry areas in Durban. However, now it was one of their most regular. We finished the night with a devotion from Jake on Acts 15:30-35 on encouragement, as one of the primary reasons for short-term missions. We then talked about ways to continue in encouraging the Yngsdals and spent some time in prayer.

Tomorrow, we will spend some time doing two Bible studies and a training session for pastors. We ask that you pray for boldness and clarity in the gospel and also energy. Today, I think we were all reminded of the providence of the Lord, so we leave you with James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

Loving the Bride,

Kyle Smith


St. Louis – July 2017: Day 6

It has been such a blessing this week to teach English classes to 24 Arabic and Russian speaking adult students!  Wes, John, JJ, Brianna and I had 12 intermediate level students who were able to communicate somewhat well with us. Their biggest area of need was future and past tenses, job interview questions, map skills, personal character qualities (new word for them: obnoxious!) and idioms that you and I use every day in conversation.
There was also a large group opening gathering and closing time each night.  During these times, they would learn English songs such as “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” and “This Land Is Your Land” which by the way is a very welcoming song for a refugee! Matt, the Church at Affton’s Discipleship pastor would also share stories from the Word or his own story of those who had honor but then did shameful things. In Muslim culture, honor is huge and many feel the weight and guilt of shame when they don’t measure up. Matt did a beautiful job of sharing the gospel Wednesday night of how Jesus is the only One who can take away our shame and guilt. We wondered if any would come back the following night with such an offensive message. However, to our delight, all came back!
Last night at the end, we were able to present each one with a certificate of completion. All of them seemed so excited and proud to receive their diploma. It was truly a big deal for them. We also took a written survey with each of them and had such encouraging results from it. Out of 24 students, 23 wanted to learn more about who the Church at Affton was. 21 wanted weekly conversation classes at the church, 12 wanted to learn more about what Christians believe and 11 wanted to specifically talk with the pastoral team or their wives about how Jesus could take away their shame. It was an incredible reminder of how good our God is to bring all nations to Him a nd the work He is doing just in holding conversational English classes.
Another amazing aspect of these classes were the children of the refugees that came with their parent to join in the Backyard Bible Club hosted by so many of our UBC folks. They had upwards of 20 children come each night. Not only were they hearing of Jesus, but it showed the team and the church that these fathers of these children trusted the Church at Affton. It’s hard enough for husbands (especially Muslim) to let their wives go inside a Christian church, but to let your children go as well. Only by the grace of our Lord does that happen! Most of these families do not get out much during the week much less interact with Americans, so it was a highlight each night to have somewhere to go, as several of our students shared with me time and again. We are anxious to see how the Lord will continue to build these friendships between the Church at Affton and the internationals, and where and in who the gospel will take root! Pray for those relationships to flourish and especially for husbands to hear the name of Jesus!
Written by Kathy Burgess
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 28, 2017 in General Missions, Judea, St. Louis


St. Louis – July 2017: Day 5

Today started with a 70% chance of rain.  As a group we had to decide if we would go ahead and go to our Backyard Bible Club sites or to stay at the Church at Affton and pray for the kids instead, the teams unanimously decided to go.  The rain continued lightly as we set up tents, but the children still showed up.  Along with three of our regulars we were able to welcome four new children. The lesson today was about the gospel and JJ asked the kids to raise their hands if they had heard the word sin before.  They hadn’t.  Then he asked if they knew the name Jesus?  And again the answer was no.  We shared the gospel with several who were hearing it for the first time.  Brianna was then able to share a picture illustration of Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  The kids listened well and were very interested to hear what were were teaching.  They even asked questions.  Each person on our team has had a sweet connection with our new friends and we will be sad to leave them tomorrow, but God is faithful and will continue His work in them.

Pray for the safety of these children and their families as they live in a very rough neighborhood.

Pray for Talisha, Cory, Elijah and the rest of the kids that they would know Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Pray that God would bring other Christians into their lives.

Today was a wakeup call that we should not take for granted that just because we live in America that all have heard of Jesus.  Praise God for allowing us the opportunity to share the hope we have in Him.

Written by JJ & Braidi Tartaglia

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 27, 2017 in General Missions, Judea, St. Louis