Missionary efforts used to be a matter of geography,” says Ariel Abadiano, the president and founder of Philippine-based PARTNERS International. “Missionary service meant leaving a country and traveling by boat to somewhere else. Now you can go across the street to do missions. This is both a blessing and a responsibility.”
Abadiano is organizing the North American Missions Congress, held at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis, Ind., Sept. 27–29. The conference will focus on collaboration for global disciple-making strategies and will feature the cooperation of several mission agencies, ministry organizations, and colleges. Abadiano, a featured speaker at the 2009 GARBC Conference, has also arranged for cooperation with the International Partnership of Fundamental Baptist Ministries. He would like the event to include local pastors, church leaders, and church members who are interested in missions.
“Leaders are not coming together. They have a heart, but they are too busy,” Abadiano says. “My job is to put up a venue where leaders can talk and pray.” Because the primary purpose of the conference is to facilitate new disciple-making networks and partnerships, most of the three days will be spent in round-table discussions organized by interest areas, such as campus ministry, tent-making ministry, publications, education, and missionary administration.
“We want to see more partnerships and collaborations, but that takes time. We need to start by networking, meeting old friends, meeting new people with similar interests,” says Abadiano, who draws on his experiences creating similar partnerships among Baptist churches in Asia. Now that the network of Baptist churches in the Philippines is sending out many missionaries, Abadiano hopes to reproduce the model around the world. “What was once a mission field is now becoming a missions force,” he says.
“God uses the economy, politics, and even job loss as a greater blessing for himself,” Abadiano says, summarizing how the economic crisis has ironically resulted in greater missionary efforts. “The best gift God gave Filipinos was famine. Because life is hard and difficult, we think more about leaving home, which is not comfortable. Now there is no country in the world without a Filipino population.”
And Ariel Abadiano knows something of the personal tragedy that forges missionary service. “My father was murdered two days after my wedding in 1999,” he says. “We were supposed to go to our honeymoon. I called home, and my mom said, ‘Your father was robbed and then shot.’ The thieves had seen my father exchange a small amount of money at the bank and assumed he was wealthy. But this is where God spoke to me about my current ministry.”
The North American Missions Congress follows the same model as a similar Asia-Pacific Missions Congress that Abadiano organized in 2008. While his vision may strike some as too fantastic to be practical (yes, he is planning a similar European conference for ), he also has the reputation of relying heavily on the innate partnerships that can develop only with local leadership. At the end of the North American conference, Abadiano hopes to form a team of perhaps 20 to 30 leaders who will develop a sense of ownership among North American churches who are interested in missionary partnerships.
“Americans seem to have an interest in networking, a desire to do it,” Ariel says, and then asks quietly, “Perhaps they do not actually do it, though?”