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This past summer, Ryan Shaw, Missionary from SVM2, serving in Thailand, visited and spoke at our church. I was immediately drawn to his message of sharing the gospel to the nations and knew that I needed to have him share his story and the ministry of SVM2 for my readers.
While schedules were tough to manage and the time zone difference from rural Missouri and Chang Mai, Thailand made it difficult to connect, we agreed to share a written interview.
I encourage you to read about Ryan, his beautiful family and the ministry of SVM2 and support this incredible ministry through prayer and financial support if you feel led.
Tell us a bit about you, your family and your life in Thailand
I am a fourth-generation message bearer (alternative term for missionary). I was born in Papua New Guinea where my parents served with Wycliffe Bible Translators. My grandparents and great grandparents served together on a cross-cultural ministry team in both India and the Philippines. Kelly was born in Columbia, MO and raised in Armstrong, MO. We met when she ventured out to California to attend Fuller Theological Seminary where be both received our Master’s degrees. She and I were married 15 years ago. After our wedding in Pasadena, CA we immediately moved to London, Ontario, Canada where we lived for 3 and a half years. Since then we have also lived in Turkey for four years and now Thailand for the last 7 and a half years. Therefore, we have never made a home in the US as a married couple. We have two kids, Noah and Emma. Noah was born in Canada and Emma was born in Turkey. We live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, a perfect city for a ministry base for our international ministry work in many countries globally. Our kids go to a wonderful international school and Chiang Mai lends itself as a base location globally.
Would you share a bit about your testimony?
As mentioned, I grew up in a mission home. When I was 7 my family moved from Papua New Guinea to Pasadena, California where my dad began teaching at Fuller Theological Seminary in the School of World Mission. I received Jesus as savior at a young age, 6 years old, but didn’t really understand the idea of making Him Lord of my life until I was 13. After that decision I was discipled well and grew quickly in the Lord throughout high school. I felt called to ministry at 17 and this was confirmed through many of my leaders. I did not, however, want to serve God in cross-cultural ministry as my family had. I had seen some things as a young boy that I did not understand and as a result I equated “missions” as being negative. When I was 19 years old my family and I made a return visit to Papua New Guinea to see the people my parents worked among. On that trip God rearranged my world. One day while walking along a trail in the jungle the Spirit of God arrested my heart. He posed a question to me and I immediately knew it was the voice of God. He asked, “Ryan, are you willing to give your life for the nations of the world?” I struggled with this and wrestled with God over the next two weeks. Finally, in surrender I prayed, “Lord, you know my struggles with missions but I am willing that you change my heart and make me willing.” Within two years, through many circumstances and situations, reading books and many other factors, He healed my misunderstandings and put a deep passion for the Great Commission in my heart. From that point on, at age 21, I have dedicated myself to this direction in life and ministry.
Tell us about your ministry
SVM2 is an international mission mobilization initiative – https://www.svm2.net. While studying at Fuller Seminary from 1999 – 2001, the Lord used the historic Student Volunteer Movement of the late 1800’s to inspire me with His vision of releasing the same type of work today. The difference was that the historic movement of massive mission sending had been from the western church alone while today’s context is ripe for the body of Christ in every nation to be mobilized and equipped to send cross-cultural church planting teams to the remaining unreached people groups. In 2003 I was involved in founding SVM2 (Student Volunteer Movement 2) in the spirit of what God had done over 100 years before.
SVM2 initiates widespread mission mobilization initiatives among local churches and campus ministry fellowships primarily in non-western, emerging mission sending nations. We provide them with training and proven tools to mobilize and equip their own members to be inspired, educated and activated in Jesus’ Great Commission. Our vision is seeing this same outcome reproduced in thousands of local ministries in multitudes of nations. Through doing so, more believers are activated in their divine ministry assignments with many of these being sent as long-term message bearer teams among the unreached and unengaged people groups of today. We have a step by step multiplication strategy learned over the last 15 years of doing mission mobilization work that is being implemented at present in 16 non-western nations (in Africa, Asia and Latin America) to see denominations in those nations equipped to mobilize and equip grassroots local ministries across their ministry structures.
We also run a Great Commission Equipping Center in Chiang Mai. This is a training center facilitating three leadership schools of various lengths through the year. We have a two-week Great Commission Leadership Institute, one-month Mobilizer Equipping School and five-month School of Global Harvest. These three school serve leaders from many different countries who come to Chiang Mai for the equipping program.
You can learn more about SVM2 HERE
How did your life as a missionary come about? Have you always wanted to be a missionary?
Refer above to the testimony portion as I relate part of the answer to this question there. I am very thankful for my family heritage in global missions and how God has used that heritage to lead and guide me in the global ministry I am engaged in of mobilizing His church in traditionally “mission receiving” nations as “mission senders.” A key element He used along the way was that of mission biographies and other mission books, magazines, etc. I am a huge advocate of the power and necessity of reading books on deeper spirituality as well as our corporate mandate as the body of Christ of the fulfillment of the Great Commission. I grew in following God’s will for my life through reading the lives of others with similar callings who went before me.
What do you wish people knew about evangelism/the great commission?
There are so many things. Where do I start? First, that “evangelism” and “missions” need to be defined separately. In our day it is trendy to state “everything we do as believers is mission!” I understand the sentiment behind this. Yet if we really think about it, if that is true, then nothing in particular is missions. And we know that is not true. Reaching out in our local neighborhoods, jobs, campuses and more is local evangelism, yet not missions. Missions can best be defined as crossing cultural barriers to take the gospel in a Spirit-empowered, culturally relevant way to people who are at present out of access of hearing or understanding it. Defining these two terms, evangelism and missions, helps us understand our target and more effectively evaluate how we are doing.
Second, there is a traditional way of understanding missions yet there are also the changing shifts of missions which the Spirit is guiding and leading many into. It does not look like the older model of 10 or 15 years ago. One of these shifts is the Spirit is encouraging professionals to go to the unreached globally using their degrees. They take careers, families and relocate to live among an unreached people group, though they are primarily there for the gospel. This provides credibility in the location, enabling an easier adjustment into gaining a listening ear among the locals.
Third, every believer is called to participate in the Great Commission among the nations in some form. This does not mean necessarily going to serve long term among an unreached people group yet it does mean identifying one’s role and actively playing it. At least six distinct roles in missions have been identified and every believer falls into one or more of these six role categories: goer, giver, intercessor, mobilizer, advocate, welcomer. These six roles are detailed through a series of articles on the SVM2 blog called the Abandoned Times.
Fourth, the above reality then means that entire local ministries need to be mobilized and equipped for missions. Not just for the sake of a few that may be called to go and serve in an unreached people group but for the sake of all of the other roles above that believers are able to participate in. They will never leave their hometown yet can impact unreached people groups globally for eternity through rightly functioning in their role. A major reason why there are still so many unreached people groups in the world is because we have thought that a few professional missionaries serving from our church is the extent of our responsibility in missions. This could not be farther from the truth. We need every believer in a local church to understand and identify their role and actively engage with it with all their heart.
For those who can’t serve as missionaries, what can the average person do to share the gospel?
There are several important steps. First, build trusting relationships with people. Research reveals most people come to Jesus and remain in faith following Him because they were introduced to Jesus through a trusted friend.
Second, don’t rely on a few cliché phrases in your evangelism. Instead, in the context of trust relationships, ask people if they would like to study the Bible and learn more about who Jesus is and what He has done. Overcome the temptation just to give them a small slice of the overall picture in a one-time sitting and hope for the best. We commit to an ongoing process of piece by piece helping them see truth.
Most people have never really read the Bible and do not know the depths of who God is, what He did in creation, how humanity fell into sin, what the implications of this were, the extent God went to restore humanity, how to be born-again, the extent of the benefits, blessings and inheritance God has provided for His children, the responsibilities He has also put upon us as His sons and daughters on earth. In the midst of long-term, trust relationships, over time, we help them see the big picture of what the Gospel is.
I am finishing up a book on the subject of the message of the Gospel that we bear among the nations called “Proclaiming the Kingdom.” Jesus taught more on the subject of the Kingdom of God then any other topic. Yet for the most part our evangelism is void of this subject. Is our message the same as the Biblical Gospel? Be on the lookout for this book on our website and on social media.
What needs does your ministry have right now?
We are in the process of recruiting four interns to serve with us for a nine-month period from August 2019 through May 2020. If you know someone who is missions-minded, is willing to work hard, can raise their own funds (fairly small amount), encourage them to contact us. The internship will include daily office hours on various projects, daily time in our Global Harvest Prayer Room, spiritual life development, training courses, local outreach in Chiang Mai and more.
We are consistently fundraising for various projects. One is mentioned below Another is providing scholarships for leaders participating in our training schools in Chiang Mai. Leaders come from all over the world, making it difficult for those from poorer national backgrounds. In order to serve them we heavily subsidize their fees as well as often helping them with portions of their air tickets, etc. Your sowing into these leaders lives through giving to their scholarships is a huge blessing.
How can people support your ministry?
We encourage people to pray for SVM2 and to give financially to the work. For prayer, look up SVM2 on Facebook and “Like” our page. That way you will receive on your Facebook timeline daily posts about different things and be reminded to pray. Find us here.
You can also give to the work with one-time gifts or on a monthly basis. We are in the midst of a year end giving campaign at present called “Ripples of Mission Mobilization” to help fund the initiation of six National Mobilization Initiatives in 2019. See the flyer below. Help us raise $20,000 toward this end by midnight, December 31st. Go here to give to this campaign .
What is the hardest part about living overseas in missions?
I think being away from family is probably the hardest. Kelly and I come from very close family’s so it is quite difficult, especially during holidays to be so far away.
What is one misconception that people have about missionaries that you want to dispel?
I think a common misconception is that missionaries are super saints. We are just normal people who love Jesus and want to see His glory and fame spread among all the ethnic peoples, according to His own promise. We are weak, broken people who are responding to His love for all the peoples.
You’ve written several books. Can you share a bit about them with our readers?
I will highlight the series of Bible study guides we have produced called “Cultivating Abandoned Devotion to Jesus Series.” These are in depth study guides considering a range of individual Bible books or portions of Bible books. The Bible consistently calls disciples to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Every believer is meant to walk in this kind of spiritual depth. The overall purpose of these studies is to grow us in this “Abandoned Devotion for Jesus” as we consider in depth understanding of a variety of books and passages. Individual studies in the series include “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount” “Studies in the Life of Joseph” “Studies in the book of Jonah” “Studies in Jesus’s Parables of Matthew 13” and more coming soon. These study guides can be used by individuals as well as in small group study situations. Find more information here – https://www.svm2.net/ignitemedia/resources/
What’s next for you/your ministry?
We are facilitating a five-month School of Global Harvest at our Great Commission Equipping Center starting in January. This is the first time we have done this particular training school so we need prayer for its facilitation and all logistics connected to it. Participants are from non-western, majority world nations who want to be trained as message bearers (alternative term for missionary) among an unreached people group globally. Find more info here – https://www.svm2.net/equipping-center/sogh/
How can we pray for you and your ministry?
- For the above facilitation of the School of Global Harvest
- For the “Ripples of Mission Mobilization” end of year fundraising campaign
- For spiritual strength and intimacy with Jesus as we serve the Lord
- For favor as we network and work across Christ’s body among many nationalities and denominational structures to empower the mission mobilization process.
A Training of leaders in Lilongwe, Malawi to implement proven tools to mobilize and equip for missions into their local churches using our curriculum called “the Handbook for Great Commission Ministries.”
A recent group of ministry leaders from seven nations (Uganda, Ethiopia, India, South Sudan, South Africa, Kenya, Philippines) who participated in a one-month Mobilizer Equipping School at our Great Commission Equipping Center in Chiang Mai. Reproducing leaders who mobilize for mission in their home countries.
For more interviews with amazing Christian missionaries, women and inspiring leaders, see this section of my website.