RICHFIELD - Richfield Mennonite Church's senior pastor is using his voice.
He is speaking for those who are halfway around the world who cannot so much as share their name on the World Wide Web for fear of losing their lives.
The Rev. Paul Beech will leave his position with RMC to become a voice for persecuted Christians in what is now described as the former Soviet Union.
Sentinel photo by TABITHA GOODLING
Richfield Mennonite Church Senior Pastor Paul Beech stands wearing a “Russian” hat that is worn by most men in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Beech is leaving the pastorate at RMC to seek full time ministry for the persecuted church in those areas of the world.
Beech served at RMC seven years, and on July 1 he will take the reins as director of development for Keys Ministries based in Liverpool, Perry County.
Keys Ministries is a non-profit group formed by the late W. Palmer Long of Liverpool. The ministry is a "financial institution to help one theological college and four one-year Bible colleges," Beech explained.
Beech will remain in Central Pennsylvania most of the year speaking at churches and explaining the need to support Christians in a "lawless" part of Eastern Europe and Central Asia who need an education to become pastors and Bible teachers in order to reach the lost in their country.
The schools are located in the country of Moldova which is bordered by Romania and the Ukraine. Beech will visit that part of the world five weeks out of the year to teach the Bible and conduct interviews with the persecuted church.
Beech has been helping with the
organization for a year while pastoring at RMC but will now take on the full-time role. He has visited the area, met believers of various nationalities who are trying to preach the gospel in a very threatening atmosphere.
Beech shared there are 197 people groups in that part of the world.
"We are told to think that America is the great melting pot of the world, but it's just not true," the pastor shared.
He pointed out 80 percent of the people in that area declare themselves as Muslim but most do not go to the mosque for worship. They are Muslim by name only.
"We want to demonstrate them that the Christian faith is about Jesus Christ who came to forgive and to love."
He added, "And there are people there willing to tell that message."
W. Palmer Long started the ministry in 1998 hoping to help the Bible schools thrive. The only way to do that was to raise funds, and Long began the ministry that keeps churches in our part of the world informed.
Beech's role will include preaching the Bible "so that people know how to support the ministry and understand its importance." He will also pastor and train those in the persecuted churches.
"Many of (the believers) are very hurt, displaced and discouraged," Beech said.
As they strive to share the good news of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible, they are willing to lay down their lives for the Gospel, he said.
Their stories need to be shared, he said, but by being online or sending out any specific names or locations puts their lives and their children's lives in great danger.
Part of Beech's ministry is to visit house churches in Central Asia where the community around the houses are Muslim.
He pointed out that not all Muslims are full of hatred. Most are peaceful.
However, there are men who attend mosques daily and are set on causing harm to anyone who does follow their commands or beliefs, Beech said. Therefore anyone preaching anything other than Muslim is considered a target, he said.
"The government there is not as strong as the mosque," Beech said.
The republic that is Moldova is a free country, "the gateway" to the countries on what known as the "Silk Road." Moldova, which offers freedom of religion, was the perfect place to house 500 students who wanted to learn how to teach the Bible in these otherwise dangerous surrounding areas.
Beech's own educational background is homiletics and teaching of Biblical structure. "My main role is to be a spokesman," he said.
Beech is available to speak at any church in the area about the ministry.
His goal is to have 100 churches in Central Pennsylvania take on a $2,000 scholarship per year. This is the cost to send one student to school for a one year-degree in Bible. The cost is $3,600 for a married couple to attend school together.
Tuition here in the U.S. Bible colleges averages at $20,000 a year, he said.
Churches can opt to adopt a professor who earns $6,000 a year. They can adopt a student through the $2,000 per year program (one year). Churches also can give partial scholarships such as $1,000 or $500 a year.
Beech said he is grateful to RMC, which has been a sponsoring church of Keys Ministries, and will miss the body of Christ there.
Associate Pastor Aaron Benner will take over as interim pastor as the church prays about how to fill the vacancy.
RMC's ministries have thrived over the years, Beech said. Now he is prepared to take that thriving nature abroad.
"All I want to do is share the love of Christ in a country ruled by hatred."