It was a place of idolatry and cultic ritual. According to legend, it was the place where fallen angels had arrived in our world. Locals believed it was a portal to the underworld.
I’m not describing any of the mission fields I’ve seen firsthand. Rather, I’m describing first-century Caesarea Philippi. It’s at the base of Mount Hermon, a place biblically associated with the demonic. In Jesus’ day, gods like Zeus and Pan were worshiped there.
Yet it’s in Caesarea Philippi that Jesus makes this astonishing statement to Peter: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18b). “Gates of hell” is no overstatement here—in a sense, Jesus said these words while overlooking the very mouth of Hades!
The point? No evil in the world can ultimately stop Christ’s church.
Martha and I have visited many faithful, persevering ABWE missionaries. We’ve seen both places of great beauty and of great darkness. In some countries, the spiritual warfare manifests in visible idol worship and witchcraft, while in other places Satan’s strategy is to trap the lost in modern life and its comforts.
Yet Christ is establishing his bride, the church, in all these places. Each day, we see local churches advancing against darkness. In 2022, we witnessed 24 new church plants initiated and hundreds continue in the planting process. Twenty-one churches sent out gospel laborers through ABWE for the first time. When I’m tempted to think that darkness is winning in the world, I’m reminded of the One who has overcome the world (John 16:33).
This year, the Lord has set our sights on Papua New Guinea. It is a context marked by footholds of spiritual darkness, yes, but Christ’s church is being built here too—and local churches are boldly reaching out to the surrounding peoples.
We exist to serve the body of Christ at home and abroad. We exist because of more than 400 churches partnering together and sharing resources to fulfill the Great Commission. So, in this issue, we’re celebrating—and recommitting ourselves to—the local church.