Global mission role for retired Norwich Minister
A spiritual jolt during a conference in 2016 compelled retired church minister from Thorpe St Andrew, Rev David Adams, to take on a new development role for the global mission organisation World Outreach International. Jenny Seal reports.
As UK Development Director for World Outreach, David Adams sees a pressing need to take Christianity to unreached people now. "Mission is becoming more difficult," he said. "We need to do all we can now because we don't know what freedoms will be taken away."
Rev David Adams (71) retired in 2014 from Norwich's Witard Road Baptist Church, where he was well-known for his passionate preaching. He and his wife, Sandra, who have six children, were born and lived most of their lives in Thorpe. Yet David's path to becoming an advocate of World Outreach has been global.
It began in 1977 when David and his young family moved to Dallas, Texas so that he could study theology. Working as part of a scholarship scheme, he became friends with a fellow international student, Kitbok Ryntathaing from North-East India.
"Kitbok used to say to me, ‘one of these days you'll come and visit my land,'" David said. "And in my heart, I was saying, ‘not on your life'. I didn't like the heat, I didn't like curry, I was from Norwich in the 1970s. The Lord had to do a real work on me. It took from then until 1991".
After he did visit in 1991, David began to punctuate his Norwich ministry with regular trips to India. Kitbok was, by then, a mission partner of World Outreach and asked David to join the team to train local ministers in North-East India in Christian leadership.
The visits were intense. David would lead back-to-back seminars for a week in one place and then travel to a new location, often in a very poor rural district, to repeat the same seminars with another group of Christian leaders. Hundreds of local pastors would travel great distances to be there, hungry for the teaching.
"People were so poor that they didn't have money to go to Bible College. It was very practical teaching to help them establish and run and see a church expand."
On some of these visits David also had the privilege of preaching the Gospel in places for the first time. On one visit in 1995, Kitbok asked David to accompany him to a village deep in the Garo Hills of the Indian state of Meghalaya.
"They had never had anybody preach the Gospel to them," said David. "So, we went there, and I preached on the side of the hill, outside one of their huts. There were no microphones, I just had to shout. I preached from John 3:16. I gave an altar call and prayed. I never heard a thing for months. I had to ask Kitbok, ‘what happened in that village?' He said, ‘There's a church there now'. We never really know what effect we have on people."
When David retired from Witard Road he was visited by the International Director of World Outreach, John Elliott, who came to Norwich to ask David whether he'd consider becoming a UK Board Member for the mission agency. David agreed. "It became a journey of frustration," he said. "The board was very administratively focused. For the first three years, all I'm doing is looking at figures."
"Then in 2016, John Elliott encouraged me to come to the World Summit in Chiang Mai in Thailand," said David. "Early on in the conference, someone read Matthew 24:14 which says, ‘And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.'
"The thing that struck me was that Jesus can't come back until all nations or people groups have had an opportunity to respond to the Gospel. So, I thought, ‘what am I doing about that?' And the answer was, 'Precious little'. I said, ‘I'm going to say I don't want to be on the board to shuffle bits of paper. I want to be proactive'".
"I went to the board, and they said, 'we've been waiting for somebody to say that for years!' The next thing I know they are calling me the UK Development Director for World Outreach!"
David has taken on this new role with characteristic enthusiasm. "I will do whatever I can to do what I can," he said. And, so as well as mission trips to Macedonia, Thailand and India, he also regularly travels to UK churches to speak and takes part in Mission Roadshows at universities.
World Outreach has a focus on presenting the Gospel to unreached people groups around the world, which includes an estimated 3 billion people. David said: "World Outreach is currently working in 149 unreached people groups in 70 countries around the world with over 250 expat missionaries. It might take years to present the Gospel because you have to build a relationship. And you may have to help the people economically before you earn the right to share the Gospel."
David takes pride in the lean budget that World Outreach runs on. His role is voluntary, and every missionary must raise their funding. "It's amazing," he said. "Worldwide there are only a handful of paid staff. In the UK if we get a gift that isn't Gift Aided the whole amount goes to the mission field. If it is Gift Aided, we take 5% of just the Gift Aid as an admin fee, and the rest goes to the mission field."
Having seen the impact of recent political changes in India first-hand, David is acutely aware of the threats to mission. In March he was in India and due to preach at three evangelistic meetings in Assam. "On the preceding Monday," he said, "we got a message to say that some of the Hindu people had seen posters put up by the Christians advertising it. They went to the authorities, who withdrew permission. So, I never went to that particular area."
"The last Sunday I was there I preached in a church that had been established in a Hindu community. They had endured no end of persecution and problems. But the first thing you see is the smiling face of the pastor of the church, full of joy. They suffer physically, get abused and attacked and yet they carry on."
"A third of the missionaries with World Outreach now have to work under pseudonyms because of the dangers and for their security," David said. "What that says to me is that while there is the opportunity to go, go – because it could be withdrawn at any time."
David would be happy to speak to churches and groups about World Outreach. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org