Do you realize we have an incredible ministry that partners with churches stretching all over the globe based right here in Spokane? Get to know the folks at Partners International as they work in 37 different countries to reach people for Jesus.
Anthony: Larry, I understand that Partners International was founded in 1943 as a ministry with the same mission then that they have now: to equip and enable indigenous people groups to minister the Gospel of Christ to the local population. Was that an innovative concept at the time?
Larry: They say necessity is the mother of all innovation! In the early 40’s, due to escalation of conflicts between Japan and China in WW2, nearly all Western missionaries were removed from China. Partners International was born in 1943 when four businessmen and a missionary to China met and agreed that if China was to be reached with the Gospel, the work would have to be done by Chinese Christians. At the time, the idea was both remarkable and innovative: that indigenous believers could be entrusted with the resources to do God’s work to reach their own nation. Since then, that one extraordinary partnership has led to hundreds of partnerships in more than 50 countries.
Anthony: Give us the big picture of Partners International: How many countries do you serve in and how many people groups are included in that number?
Larry: Partners International exists to connect the global Christian community to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the least reached, least resourced nations on earth. We accomplish this by engaging in Christ-centered partnerships with indigenous ministries who spread the Gospel, build the Church, transform communities, and empower women and children. Our focus is to create accelerated, multiplied Kingdom impact by engaging the whole Body of Christ in building up and strengthening the indigenous Church.
We currently have 59 ministry partners who operate in 37 different countries. We partner in countries located in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, in an area which is sometimes called the 10/40 Window and encompasses the majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. This region is made up of 68 countries, is home to five billion people, and includes 1,700 unreached people groups. 80% of the world’s poorest people live in these regions, and 85% are virtually unreached with the Gospel. So, our hearts’ desire is to partner where the Church of Jesus Christ does not yet exist.
Anthony: When you talk about the number of countries you work in, you give us two different numbers. Why the difference between “37 different countries” and “more than 50”?
Larry: The higher number include the other Alliance partners we have across the world (Partners International Canada, Worldshare UK, Worldshare Australia, and CNEC Singapore) as part of our Global Partnership Alliance. The 59 and 37 are specifically for PI USA. So, we are part of a larger Global Partnership Alliance and the CEO of the 5 organization meet regularly to collaborate together – I hosted them in Spokane last month.
Anthony: Let’s talk about you, Larry. Tell us about your personal call from the Lord to serve. What happened in your life to trigger a move from Corporate USA to full-time ministry?
Larry: I spent 27 years as a Christian in the corporate world- 17 years with P&G and 10 years with HP. Outside of work I had always been engaged with serving Christ in my local church– from Sunday School with our four children, to home groups, to church planting, worship ministry, and benevolence ministry– I just always felt we were called with a purpose to serve. In 2011, I was a Global Services Executive with HP, and I was leading a $230 million dollar business, with a team of almost 4000 people in 30+ countries. When I took over the business four years prior it was about a $160 million dollar business – and every metric I was measured on improved year over year – especially in 2011. I should have been thrilled with the success, but honestly that whole year was a struggle. I was growing very discontented with the job and saw clearly how much it limited my impact to the Kingdom.
In December 2011, after spending some extended time seeking God, I heard a clear directive, that 2012 was my last year with HP and that God was calling me to something else. I was obedient to that call, and circumstances required that I communicate that to my senior management. After I informed my management team that 2012 was my last year, the Lord opened a door for an unexpected, but welcomed, early retirement package, and I accepted it that day. I agreed to a six month transition plan and left HP in October 2012, feeling like Abraham: “Go to a land I will show you”.
Over those six months, I worked with the Halftime organization to shape my mission statement, as well as alongside my wife, getting our hearts on the same page. So, I left HP with my one page mission statement in hand. As the Lord would have it, the Partners International Board decided to hire Halftime to execute the CEO search, and it was through the Halftime leadership that the CEO profile made its way to me. This CEO profile was a near verbatim copy of the mission statement I had been crafting over the previous months, and I felt the call the moment I read the profile.
The Lord showed Himself in the process of seeking out this role with the Board, and Bethanne and I committed early in the process that we were ready to serve, even though it required a move from Ohio to Spokane, WA. When the call from the Board came, we were all in!
Anthony: You’ve now been in this role at PI for over a year. How many countries have you visited in that time?
Larry: I have been able to meet almost 40 of our ministry partners across China, the Mekong area, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, and West Africa. In January 2015, I will meet our partners in the Middle East and North Africa.
It is been absolutely humbling to meet and serve with such incredibly diverse and gifted ministry leaders who serve so sacrificially, often in places where persecution is a daily threat. Many of these leaders are well educated, well trained, and could serve in many different ways – but they are called by the Lord to serve and to bring the Gospel of the Lord Jesus to their nations, their cultures, and their people groups.
Partners International does not come to our partners with an agenda; we come to serve alongside the vision God has given them, and to partner with them to do more together than we could ever do alone. That is the core of our ethos as an organization– to invite the Christian community in the USA into partnership with the men and women the Lord has called forth to serve Christ in the least reached, and least resourced, parts of the world.
Anthony: So tell me, in your time so far with PI, how has your worldview been impacted?
Larry: In the 18 months I have been with PI, my Christian worldview has certainly been stretched. I know in my heart we are called as Christians to live, serve, and give sacrificially. My definition and experience of “sacrificial” has been re-written. I am astounded at the depth of what sacrificial living, serving, and giving looks like in the daily life of thousands of the ministry workers in our partner organizations. The commitment it takes to train, travel, meet, equip, and evangelize– to create local financial support and to assist families being persecuted– it is hard for us Westerners to imagine.
When Jesus asks us to pick up our cross to follow Him, it takes on a new meaning in these difficult places of the world. As a Christ follower, it has made me stop and think about how sacrificial my commitment is. It has caused me to reach deeper into my own soul and into my walk with Christ. I have been encouraged and challenged in how I engage with people right here in Spokane, how I share the Gospel locally. God has certainly given me a view of the world, but I cannot take my eyes off my own church and community. I am called to serve all three.
Anthony: I understand how an individual believer can have an impact by donation. Are there ways that a local church body can gather around the work of PI and make a difference?
Larry: The impact this ministry has is amazing. Last year, over 63,500 men and women gave their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, over 2300 new churches were planted (6 a day!), more than 20,000 men and women received ministry training. And we estimate close to 1.4 million people heard the Gospel in a meaningful way. For every $1000 invested in the ministry, about 250 people were reached. That is the result of people like you and me partnering with men and women who are called by God to reach their own nation.
God has the world on His heart, and we want to go to parts of the world that have still never heard the Gospel after 2000 years. We partner with over 300 churches across the U.S. and operate as an extension of their missions vision. Churches have an incredible opportunity to extend their reach to the world through PI and the incredible partnership we are part of, with nationals touching their nations for Christ.
We recognize as part of our calling that we are able to help the local individual, the local church, the local company, or the local Foundation fulfill the vision that God has given them to reach the world for Jesus.
To discover more about Partners International, please visit them at https://www.partnersintl.org/