Dr. Mark Nicklas is a husband, father, son and follower of Jesus Christ. He is a pastor at Beaverton Foursquare Church and an adjunct professor at Multnomah University, where he earned his doctorate in Cultural Engagement. Like Jacob wrestled with God at Jabbok, this site is a place for talking about the identity of the church with respect to the cultures we live in. You are invited to share the journey.
COVID has complicated the problem of world hunger in many ways: minimizing income, interrupting supply chains, causing lockdowns that prevent work opportunities, and more. Around the world, people are more at risk of starvation than ever, particularly in the east African country of Burundi, which has also been impacted by a drought. Furthermore, the church was facing growing government regulations meant to curtail the multiplication of small churches that were not under the authority of recognized denominations.
We partnered with Foursquare Disaster Relief and The Burundi National Foursquare Church to train indigenous leaders and bring certification to pastors, a requirement instituted by the Burundi government. Without this training, churches would have closed. B4Church covered the cost of this event, so the churches can remain open without interruption. These leaders were equipped to train others in the nation. Please continue to pray for health and protection for the Burundi National Church and for the anointing of God upon the new leaders being trained, developed and released in Foursquare Burundi!
We are privileged to be able to respond to brothers and sisters around the world. B4Church worked with Foursquare Disaster Relief to deploy a medical team to Lês Cayes, Haiti, for a ten-day mission to respond to the devastating earthquake that took place August 14, 2021. Working with our Haitian churches, Haitian doctors and nurses and our FDR medical responders, we set up a medical clinic, where we served more than 1700 patients. Not only that, but the spiritual care we provided helped lead 195 people to receive Christ as their Savior!
Pray for the people of Haiti as they rebuild their lives following the earthquake and subsequent hurricane.
MARCH, 2021… It’s hard to believe that I’ve been serving in Cambodia for 18 months already (that’s half of my commitment time). These months have been some of the most transformative of my life. I’ve learned so much from the Cambodian people and love them more each day. I know that I am in the center of God’s will and I want to thank you for joining me on this amazing journey.
This month, God allowed me to see a dream fulfilled even though it was one that I have given up on long ago. The people of the Brao tribe located in the mountains of Ratanakiri province have always held a very special place in my heart. In Bible college I studied cross-cultural ministry and was given an assignment to create an evangelism plan to serve an unreached people group by meeting a practical need they were facing. After doing a great deal of research, I chose to do my project on the Brao tribe. This tribe predominately lives in the mountain range of northern Cambodia and southern Laos where the borders meet. Most of the Brao people in Laos have yet to hear the good news of Jesus.
One of the greatest needs the people continue to face is a lack of education and basic medical care. Over 80% the people are illiterate and unable to read or write the national language of Khmer. When it comes to basic medical care, people with a disease or injury will often go to a local witch doctor or shaman in hopes of receiving a cure. Many never receive proper medical treatment due to the remoteness of their village. The Brao practice animism rather than the national Buddhist religion. I’d created a ministry strategy for reaching the children of this tribe and their families. I had prayed over it and was excited to be a part of making it a reality someday. When I was diagnosed with epilepsy and told I couldn’t go on the mission field, I put the dream and project aside.
This month, I was asked to interview the pastor of FCOP’s newest home church. Pastor Savaret is from the Brao tribe and knows how to speak a little Khmer as her people have their own tribal dialect. She is an example of the majority of the tribal people that never receive an education, therefore, she is illiterate, but she loves the Lord with all of her heart and is being taught by the Holy Spirit. To disciple her home group, she relies on a solar powered audio Bible call a Proclaimer in the Khmer language which she then translates into the tribal dialect. She says she feels that she has nothing to give to her people, but she takes her audio Bible everywhere she goes so that she can give people the opportunity to hear about the love of Christ.
What touched my heart was to hear that she is listening to the audio Bible while studying the words in a Khmer Bible to learn to read and write the national language. As she learns, she is teaching others in her village. She said that the audio Bible is being used as an educational tool and people are wanting to learn more. I love how the Lord is taking the very passion I’ve had to minister to this people group and organically using a member of the tribe to take the Gospel and national language to her own people. She always has people study from the book of John so they can know how much Jesus loves them.
Each week, her congregation of over 35 people from 8 different tribes meet at a church member’s house where they worship in their native dialect, listen to the Scriptures using the Proclaimer, and have a time of prayer for their village, their province, and the nation. Now when people in the village become ill, they gather the Christians to pray. God is bringing revival amongst the hill people of Cambodia through the faith of people like Pastor Savaret and through the technology of Proclaimers that makes the Gospel available to those that would otherwise not have access to the Word of God. Brao people from Attapeu province in Laos are forging rivers and joining this congregation to learn about Jesus. I thank God for His faithfulness and for His heart that all people should come to know the truth.
Thank you for your continued prayers and for being a part of sharing the good news of Jesus throughout SE Asia. Have a wonderful and blessed Easter. Sending you all of my love and prayers!
This is an edited reprint of a post from May, 2017. Having just returned from a conference on clean water, and planning for this years water projects, it is a good reminder of what it means to have access to clean water.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.“ (John 4:10)
Blue… for as far as the eye can see… air, water and the occasional green dot as mountains spring from the deep. The South Sea Islands are glistening jewels immersed in sea and sky. Outside the airplane window from 36,000 feet it seems endless. Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji — it is almost inconceivable that human migration would discover such places. Yet the Melanesian people who call the vastness of Oceana their home occupy every livable rock.
Water… this region has more annual overall rainfall than any other in the world. The ground soaks it up like a sponge and it spills down mountains in cascades and ribbon rivers. Even the clouds that splash the sky explode with it. Rain water and salt water are abundant, but fresh drinking water is another story. It never seems enough to meet the needs of the people who live here. 60% of the people here do not have access to clean drinking water.
We were returning from a week spent in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG). We were the guests of Pastor Magi Goro. Magi went home to be with Jesus two years ago on June 30, 2019. He was a well-driller, a pastor, the Southern Region Supervisor of the National Church of Foursquare in Papua New Guinea (PNG), and a National Executive Council member. He lead the church in this region. One of the most effective ways he did this was through water ministry. He reached the communities that were displaced by development in the city.
Over the past decades, the Port Moresby slums were known for their extreme poverty. Life was cheap. Desperation made for brutal life in a community where everyone had to fight for daily survival. 400,000 people lived there — resettled from the primitive villages throughout PNG. There are over 800 languages spoken in this island nation, so people tended to settle in the slums by clans to create safe zones for living. In a stunning example of human resilience, people made these slums their homes. Until they were displaced.
In May of 2012, the first advance on the settlements was conducted on the Paga Hill community. Paga Hill is a rock that rises above the city with panoramic ocean views. It held promise for upscale homes and businesses. A developer who had won rights to the area* attempted to force the eviction of its 3,000 residents. There was armed revolt and many people died in the conflict. That attempt failed, but the business community learned from it and it paved the way for subsequent cooperative efforts by the city, police and developers to force the people out of the slums in Port Moresby. In the next 3 years, over 400,000 people were evicted from what had been legal settlements in Port Moresby. It was hailed as a big success for the revitalization of Port Moresby and an end to urban blight. There are signs proclaiming the victory “We did it!”
While there, I drove up Paga Hill. What I saw was abandoned homes and a chain link fence to prevent anyone from returning. Already, there are beautiful homes in some parts of the hill that enjoy a view that takes your breath away. This is gentrification — the confiscation of land by the wealthy and the forced removal of the existing residents who are poor, defenseless, and in the way. The former residents have suffered because of it. It is tempting to say that it is a good thing. There is prosperity and the result is a cleaner, safer Port Moresby. If you don’t encounter the displaced people, you might think it is the success the politicians claim.
But consider this — a plan was hatched by developers and the city to forcibly remove people from their homes in order to increase property values and make a lot of money. The meetings that were held by city planners, investors and developers did not include the current residents. How many ways could this have been done that would have been just? Perhaps they could have been invited into the de and given a chance to participate. Perhaps they could have asked for jobs building the new development. Perhaps they could have asked for help with resettlement. Perhaps they could have said no and made sure there was no errant relative selling them out. It doesn’t really matter now — they were never given a voice at the table. The impact of their plans on marginalized people remains invisible to the new residents.
The victims of this gentrification scattered to the surrounding hills in makeshift bush villages. The transition to rural life was hard and there were those who died from disease and violence. Dysentery, typhoid, cholera and other water-borne diseases continued to take their toll, especially among infants. To add to the challenges they faced, there was a drought when we arrived.
Magi couldn’t dig wells fast enough with his ailing drill rig. He spent more time repairing it than drilling. Villagers were drinking dirty surface water (polluted creeks, rivers and ponds). He spoke of being in the villages with moms who were hopeless to save their babies. Clean water is expensive to buy in PNG. People make hard choices. They walk for miles to get water from a trusted municipal source (though our testing showed that these sources were also unclean). Even if villagers are 95% careful, they make compromises when they are thirsty and cannot make the trek.
The most encouraging thing about being in Port Moresby was to see the good work Magi and his crew were doing. We provided a new rig and the team is able to dig wells again at a pretty good rate. They are helping people purify water from the various sources available. We noted when we first came that they were very good at getting water out of the ground, but not so good at ensuring its drinking quality. We brought test kits, filters and basic water training in methods for purifying water. Magi and his teams acted like evangelists… bringing the good news to community after community. They were able to address water quality issue even before they drilled a well. We visited numerous communities that told us about the improved health they were experiencing. They expressed their confidence in Magi and his team. This is how the Gospel is expressed…
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; (Isaiah 61:1-2)
* “won the rights” usually means that one resident sold the property and got out of town before anyone knew. The residents are bound by the agreement. There are numerous court cases contesting this, but they have not fared well in the judicial system.
One of the organization that Beaverton Foursquare serves alongside is Safe Families (part of Kindred Partners). There office will soon be part of the Beaverton Resource Center on the B4Church campus. They are always looking for people (families, small groups, couples, individuals) who will lend a helping hand to families in crisis. Safe Families is a statewide initiative that endorses the church in helping families who would otherwise fall into the DHS network. If you’d like to learn more about how you can participate, please contact Bethany Woodard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As an example of the kinds of weekly requests made, here is the most recent one we received:
HOST FAMILY NEED
URGENT: We have a single Mom of two kiddos, a 4-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. They need hosting starting this coming Monday through Friday. This Mom is needing this week to attend a crucial legal proceeding out of state and needs this hosting in order to attend. They live in North Portland and are being supported by another faith-based agency. If you are interested in this need please reach out to Bethany at email@example.com to hear more.
Second Ask: We have a precious single mom of a 2 ½-year-old little boy who desperately needs time to address medical and mental health needs without her little one in tow. She would SO benefit from 1-2 days a week of day hostings. Even one day a week would be amazing! She lives in the Cedar Mill area at the intersection of Cornell and Murray. Please contact Bethany at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to hear more about this mom and her needs.
After a full day of meetings with Haida and Tlingit leaders on Prince of Wales Island, we had some time to relax and split a cord of firewood.
That’s the way we relax when serving in Alaska. For dinner, we headed down to the fisherman’s dock. A crab fisherman had just returned from a day on the water. He was selling Alaskan King Crab that he plucked it out of the water just outside the harbor.
Abundance. Alaska has some of the most abundant natural resources on Earth. There are halibut, cod, shrimp, mussels, clams, crabs and so much more for the effort of walking into the tidal shore. Each summer, the fish clans return… the Sockeye clan, the King clan, the Humpback clan, the Coho clan, and the Dogfish clan… each providing a rich harvest and feeding the hungry animals who make their homes here. On any given summer morning you can take a short walk to the Klawock River and see bears and eagles feasting on salmon clans. As long as there have been people in Alaska, are times of harvest to enjoy the abundance of God’s hand.
There is an ancient tradition among the Alaska Natives called potlatch. The main purpose of the potlatch was redistributing your wealth. Wealth in this culture is not determined by what you accumulate, but by what you give away. When a family threw a potlatch, they would invite people from all around and would give away everything they had, save a few necessities. Then they would start over. On some of the memorial totem poles, you will see a man with a hat that has a series of rings on it. The rings represent how many times he gave his wealth away.
In the official United States assimilation process, potlatch was seen as the greatest obstacle to Alaskan Natives becoming civilized. Potlatching was made illegal in the United States in the late 19th century at the urging of missionaries and governmental workers who considered it a useless custom that was “wasteful, unproductive, and contrary to civilized values.” (Gilbert M. Sproat , The Nootka: Scenes and Studies of Savage Life, 1868). The crime of potlatch carried a minimum sentence of two months in jail. It begs a question. What is more uncivilized; giving your wealth away or imprisoning people who give their wealth away?
While the old form of celebration is gone, the potlatch principle is alive and well in the Haida and Tlingit communities as they celebrate Culture Camp. We send the Beaverton clan to Prince of Wales Island each summer and have been able to participate in these events. What a blessing to learn from the Haida and Tlingit leaders, here. We have seen how the tribal leaders work on the restoration of native identity, especially with their children. 10 years ago, we were invited to come alongside these cultures and give our time to cultural restoration projects.
You cannot read about what America did to the indigenous Alaskans on our way to enriching ourselves on the abundance of their land without sensing the injustice. We accumulated so much wealth from them! In potlatch tradition, we should have given it back several times over. We told them about a Savior who promised abundant life, but we demonstrated something very different by our actions. Mahatma Gandhi said, “I like your Jesus, but I don’t like your Christians.” As Christians in a culture that dominates the world, we owe it to Jesus to be more introspective about what messages we bring. If we had imitated Jesus, I wonder how different our history with Alaskan Natives would have been.
Our team (the Beaverton clan) came to be a part of restoring something that was broken. Haida and Tlingit people have been generous in sharing about their culture. We have been welcomed and treated graciously. People stop by all the time to talk and admire the works we have done together: three new carving sheds, a traditional native lodge, a bell tower, a boat hose, restoration of a school house and more. These are more than just buildings; they are visible symbols of Christ’s abundant love and a message of reconciliation. We are participating with the native clans of Southeast Alaska in the renewal of all things. We are repairing a breach that has stymied not only our relationship with one another, but our witness as followers of Jesus.
This summer, we will be sending Beaverton clan members to Prince of Wales Island, yet again. We will build, repair, harvest. We will serve alongside Joel and Trish Buchanan as they share the love of Jesus. Our high schoolers will play a significant role, as we are planning teams to go at the end of June. Aslan is on the move!
The native people of Alaska have experienced the scorn and judgement of our culture. They had to adjust to the power of a culture that exploited everything they held dear. It is time to turn that page – together.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:37-38)
One of our significant partners at B4Church is Safe Families, an organization that provides help to families in crisis by stepping alongside and helping so the parents can focus on the overwhelming issues with which they are grappling.
I received the following request, today (06/25/20)… Mom with two-month-old twins is needing a break and is asking for one overnight sometime in the next 1-4 days. She would also benefit from a host family that would be willing to be ongoing support. She lives in Beaverton. Please contact email@example.com if this is a possibility for your family.
Who is Safe Families? There are so many stories of changed lives because people of faith were willing to be interrupted in their lives to care for someone who is struggling. Safe Families creates space for us to do as the Good Samaritan did.
When crisis strikes — perhaps an illness, loss of a job, eviction, substance abuse, or so much more – some families in our community don’t have a supportive network to turn to. Sadly, as the parents struggle to cope with the crisis, their children are especially at risk. Safe Families for Children is a movement of compassion – compassion for both the parents and their kids.
Radical hospitality, Compassion fueled by mercy and disruptive generosity – the three objectives of Safe Families for Children are:
Keep children safe during a family crisis such as homelessness, hospitalization, or domestic violence in an effort to prevent child abuse and/or neglect.
Support, and stabilize families in crisis by surrounding them with caring, compassionate community.
Reunite families and reduce the number of children entering the child welfare system.
If you have interest in participating, please let Marlys know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream. (Amos 5:24)
It’s hard to believe we have been under the shadow of Covid-19 for 3 months. When it was just beginning, when the school closed early for Spring Break, we wouldn’t have believed it would last this long, or that the changes we would see to our society would be as cataclysmic. In those days, we only knew that schools would be closed for an extra week and some of the kids at Barnes Elementary who depend on school lunch would face food scarcity. So we volunteered to make 120 sandwiches and deliver lunches to the kids homes. We lacked nothing. We shopped, we assembled, and we delivered.
Then the governor’s shelter-in-place order made it clear that this was going to be a bit longer than a couple of weeks. So we decided to make 50 family food boxes and deliver them to the families. But the need kept growing. People were losing service sector jobs. Many of the families we were serving do not have access to the state safety net. Within a week, it was 100 families. We started a food drive. We did more shopping. Then the school district approached us, “You can do things that we cannot. Would you serve another 200 families in the wider district?” Then 300. Then 500. Then 700. Then 1,400 families. Each time we were asked I said, “If we can, we will. We’re going to need more food.” We prayed that God would “multiply loaves and fishes” so that we could meet the need.
I reached out to other churches to see if any would assist us. We had more people from sister churches willing to serve than we had openings – friends from Colossae, Bethany Presbyterian, Cedar Mill Bible, Sunset Presbyterian, Parkside Fellowship, Saint John the Baptist and Beaverton Christian. Holy Trinity Food Pantry worked with the Oregon Food Bank to have us declared an emergency food distribution location. Within a week, we had 35,000 pounds of food delivered. The food drive continued to grow as the community heard about what we were doing and consistently filled in where we had gaps. Tyson donated 10,000 pounds of frozen chicken. Sysco donated 312,000 hard-boiled eggs. The school district staff assisted at every level of the work and delivered boxes to families all over the district. The business community helped, as well – companies like Franz Bakery, Grand Central Bakery, Walmart, Restaurant Depot, Portland Baking Company, New Seasons, Grocery Outlet, Winco and Costco.
The Beaverton School District food box partnership comes to a close this week as the official school year closes and the USDA Farm to Family food box program serves this population for the summer (we will be a distribution location at B4Church). And we will continue to serve about 200 families with assembled boxes through August. We want to celebrate what we did together over the past 13 week…
• 550 boxes/week
• 1,400+ families served in the community
• 18,000 pounds of food delivered each week
• 100,000+ items of food donated
• 130,000+ pounds food from Oregon Food Bank
• 350+ staff and volunteers from B4Church
• 8 partner churches
• 60+ volunteers from other churches
• 100+ volunteers from the Beaverton School District (packing + Delivery)
• 10,000 pounds of chicken
• 312,000 hardboiled eggs
• Total pounds of food: 234,000+
• Total number of families served: 1,400+
• Total number of volunteers 500+
That’s multiplication! If you had asked me to put together a program to feed 1,400 families out of limited church funds I would have been overwhelmed. I can be creative, I can initiate and can be organized, but I know a challenge when I see one. “For My yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:30).” I was reminded by God that it was not my program. It was not anyone’s program. It was His. Because He sees people in need and does something. He is the God of love. And we are His people, privileged to serve.