In 2004, Pilo Vilane was a 14 year-old boy in the most dangerous country on the planet – Swaziland (recently renamed eSwatini). Most of the adults in Nsoko, the community in which he lived, had died or were dying. Swaziland had the highest HIV infection rate in the world and Nsoko had the highest infection rate in Swaziland – close to 80 percent at the time.
One reason for the epidemic was a lack of understanding of how it spread. In 2004, Adventures in Missions partnered with the Swazi Dept. of Education to go into every high school in the nation and train students to understand the disease and how to avoid it. Pilo was one of thousands of students who committed to change their lifestyles.
15 years later, Pilo is a part of our staff at the Adventures Swaziland Base and teaches leadership to young adults through a program he leads called Ambassadors of Hope.
“My life changed and now I get to help develop Swaziland’s leaders. I’ve taken Swazi students as missionaries to Lesotho, South Africa and Zambia.”
This kind of fruit takes a long time to develop. But Pilo’s life illustrates the impact of Adventures’ International Base Development Strategy.
Stage 1: Short-term missions
We send missionaries to come alongside national partners and meet felt needs. As they see the need and see that they are able to make a difference, we’ve found that a few may feel a call to go back to that country as a long-term missionary to disciple others.
Julie Anderson is a good example. In 2004, she was a missionary in Mexico, but when she led a team to Swaziland, she saw how she and the team made a difference in the lives of young people like Pilo.
Stage 2: Discipleship as ministry
Julie decided to move to Swaziland as a long-term missionary. She began by discipling Americans, but as she began to learn the language and the culture, her ministry shifted and she began to focus on Swazi women.
“I saw that they carried so much responsibility, but had few resources. So I came alongside them and established a ministry that empowered them to generate income for themselves by using their skill of sewing. We called it Timbali Crafts. Over the years it has grown to the point that we have trained hundreds of Swazi women to be micro-business women. And they in turn are able to provide for their children.”
Timbali Crafts is just one of many ministries sponsored by our base in Swaziland. As Adventures missionaries have patiently focused on the slow ministry of discipleship, leaders like Pilo have risen up to take it to the next level, showing how effective nationals can be if they are given the opportunity to lead.
Stage 3: Disciples who make disciples
Adventures’ model of base development may take patience, but Pilo’s example shows us its power. Pilo has invested himself in a young Swazi named Bhutana. Bhutana was a double orphan (he lost both his mother and father) who Pilo took him under his wing.
Now Bhutana is in the nursing school. Bhutana applied what he learned from Pilo by mobilizing young people at his school to do charity work.
The movement that Bhutana started is changing the lives of students, teachers, and others. Pilo says, “He is reaching places that I couldn’t. He is the spiritual leader at the college. His selfless living is contagious.”
“Bhutana reminds me of how I was when I was his age. He didn’t have parents, but I was able to pour into him just as I was poured into. It’s the example of Jesus. I believe that maybe one day Bhutana and others like him will lead our nation.”
This is not a new method of ministry. “Jesus’ model of walking alongside young people for a long time may not be very popular in America,” says Adventures’ founder, Seth Barnes, “but we’ve seen that is no less effective as we develop bases around the world than it has ever been.”
“Each base is a unique expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Thailand we’re addressing the sex trade. In Guatemala, we partner with local churches to provide clean water to those in their community. And in multiple other countries, our teams of missionaries and local partners are following Jesus’ model of loving people and meeting felt needs. It’s a powerful model – it just takes time.”
Around the world
Because each of the countries where Adventures has started a base is unique, our plan for bringing Jesus into that local context must be tailored to it. “The bases give us a chance to come alongside God’s movement and play a role in helping the local body expand their reach,” says Adventures’ President, Bob Mudd. “Working in partnership with local leaders has given us the opportunity to make a lasting impact.”
We currently have nine ministry bases in Thailand, Cambodia, India, Swaziland (recently renamed eSwatini), Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Nicaragua.
Around the world, young men like Pilo are hungering for someone to invest in them. They long to be shown that Jesus still has the answer for the issues that they face. In the future, it will be a generation of young people like Musa who reach out to them with the hope that they’ve received. Through Adventures’ bases, the hope that Jesus offers looks different, but the fruit of changed lives is the same.
Are you looking for a way to get engaged with our international bases? Adventures in Missions has trips to the bases throughout the year. Our bases are located in Thailand, Cambodia, India, Swaziland, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Nicaragua.