There is an amazing organization headquartered in Coeur d’Alene that has focused on reaching “unreached” people in Africa. It is called New Covenant Missions.
The President and CEO, Erik Laursen, resides locally with his family. We continue to marvel at all of the unsung heroes of the faith that we have in this area. Erik is one of those.
New Covenant Missions’ efforts are focused on raising up local leadership to plant indigenous churches throughout an area that is among the darkest, most dangerous places on our planet.
I looked up the definition of “indigenous” and it’s “peoples that are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live.”
Now that we have the dictionary definition, here’s an interview with someone who leads an organization focused on bringing the gospel and raising up indigenous leaders.
Erik, you didn’t start life working with missions. How and when did this begin?
I started my career managing restaurants. My last restaurant was “The Melting Pot” in Spokane, and even though we were “living the dream,” my wife, Spirit, and I simultaneously felt a burden to take the gospel to Africa. The command of Matthew 28:19-20 was on our hearts and even though we had two daughters and a son with deep roots here, we picked up and moved to Colorado to volunteer with Every Home For Christ. Eventually I was hired to supervise projects and 37 offices throughout Africa. It was a miracle to some extent. Both my wife and I knew our heart was in missions and all of this was a step of faith. Our family was in North Idaho and when an opening to lead New Covenant Missions in 2013 opened up, we were excited and prepared for this challenge.
You are president and CEO. Where are your offices and how many are on staff?
We have six part-time people who assist us, and many volunteers in the U.S. and our offices are remotely based from our homes. However, in Africa we have 12 indigenous African directors working from four main regional offices (Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, and Senegal), as well as eight additional small national offices or bases in various other African nations. Additionally we have 225 indigenous church planters working to start locally sustained indigenous churches in over 600 communities. Our mission comes right out of Romans Chapter 10: To send church planters to every unreached village in Africa “and how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news?”
Once the church planters are sent, our teams can work to equip the church planters with tools such as mountain bikes or motorbikes, Bibles, tracts, portable solar powered “Jesus Film” kits, solar powered audio Bibles, discipleship training. We then work on community development projects such as public latrines, fresh water, medical missions, etc. Whatever it takes to empower the church to grow and love its community.
What have been your results with this approach using locals as missionaries?
We established 762 churches in 2018 and are now in 15 countries in Africa. We have had five medical missions and the professionals that volunteer to go with us are amazed at what is accomplished — sometimes up to 330 people treated in one day! Clean water, mosquito nets, and other needed items are used to bring assistance to locals, including local medical staff who need supplies. We partner with many ministries such as Compassion International, Samaritan’s Purse, Horn of Africa Missions, Jesus Film Project, Partners International and more to accomplish the task.
As we follow events in Africa we see the news stories about terrorism, civil wars and lack of stable governments. How does this impact your work?
I see this firsthand since I make six or more trips a year to support our staff on the ground. Currently 99.7% of mission activity and funding from the U.S. is focused on areas where there is already an established church. Our focus is the opposite. We are going into the troubled areas. In fact, from Somalia to Senegal there exists a “line in the sand” also known as the “The Tension Belt” where terrorism, poverty, witchcraft and corruption are destroying lives every day. This is where we are called to spread the love of Jesus. Many countries are heavily Islamic but those are truly the places that need Jesus the most. We use love as a counterterrorism strategy. For example, in our first year in the Northern Islamic region of Ghana, the Lord produced incredible fruit as 61 indigenously led and sustained churches were planted and 3,260 Muslims decided to follow Jesus. We have many other similar stories in very dangerous nations but because of security concerns and threats that our teams receive, we have to be careful with what goes public.
Erik, you produced a film entitled “The Least of These” which can be watched on Amazon Video or on DVD. This was an inspiring film and we were so impressed watching the miracles God performed … and is still performing! If folks want more information about the missions, how do they do this?
They can look at our website, https://www.newcovenantmissions.org/ or contact us at email@example.com. We welcome interest by individuals or churches.
“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the Truth.” — I Timothy 2:3-4
Bob Shillingstad’s religion columns are published Saturdays in The Press. Email Bob: firstname.lastname@example.org