About Interserve

Interserve is one of the oldest international, interdenominational, overseas-focused agencies in existence. We began in 1852 in South Asia to care for the poor and marginalized in such a way that they could encounter Jesus and experience the life that He wanted for them. The vision God gave to our founders is still alive.

Jesus shapes our vision

By God’s grace, Jesus Christ has taken the first and foremost place in our hearts. Jesus shapes the way we see our world, and the way we see our place in the world.

We see brokenness and suffering in many places around the world. This is not surprising. After the fall, the human race quickly descended to a place where poverty and oppression abounded. Broken relationships, dashed expectations, lying, jealousy, manipulation, blame, shame, misogyny, murder and the like shaped the human experience. Jesus has shown us how this brokenness and suffering pains His heart and the Father’s heart.

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Many in the world have never had the opportunity to discover that their lives can be different. Since this is the case, Jesus has asked us to go and work alongside our brothers and sisters so that they may have the opportunity to hear about Him and ascend, not only out of the abyss of poverty and oppression, but also into His holy and transforming presence.

Jesus motivates us, inspires us, and directs us. Out of our love for and devotion to Him we are willing to follow Him wherever He leads. Jesus often leads us to work in areas that are not easy. Many of these areas are underdeveloped. Some of these areas are conflict ridden and have been for years. Nonetheless, along with His leading He gives us the grace we need to willingly go to these places and do what needs to be done. We go so that He may be pleased.

Since Jesus came as a servant, we are servants as well.

Jesus shapes our mission

Jesus’ incarnation shapes the way we live. 

We seek to live in communities for extended periods of time, learning their languages and adapting to their cultures while letting them experience the difference that the presence of the Lord makes in our lives.

Jesus’ cross shapes the way we work.

We work in areas where we do not have the power to control events and make things happen. Nonetheless, Jesus uses our lives, our work, and our relationships. Through these He enables us to be living expressions of His love and truth, directing people to Himself. They change and flourish as they encounter and follow Him.

Jesus’ resurrection shapes our confidence.

By following Jesus we change the way tomorrow looks for these individuals, for their communities, and for the world.

What We Believe

Interserve is an interdenominational and international community of evangelical Christians that exists to make Jesus Christ known through wholistic ministry, in partnership with the global church, among the neediest peoples of Asia and the Arab world.

1. We Bear Witness

As a community of disciples of Jesus Christ, we bear witness to the one living Creator God revealed in the Bible as three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We also bear witness to God’s loving intentions for humanity and for creation. Despite the entrance of sin into the world and its profound ramifications, God’s loving intentions remain unchanged. God initiated a plan which is being fulfilled through Jesus Christ: to reconcile humanity to God, to eliminate evil and suffering, to renew creation, and to live with redeemed humanity forever.

2. We Take Part in His Plan

God invites us to take part in this unchanging redemptive plan. We accept this invitation through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and in joyful obedience. We take on God’s mission as our wholistic mission. Therefore we aim to:

  • live as a community of the redeemed with moral integrity
  • work together in Christ-like unity, humility and sacrificial love
  • demonstrate the values and the transforming power of the kingdom of God in every sphere of society, participating through suffering in Christ’s triumph over evil
  • communicate to all nations the good news of God’s grace in Christ, through whom we can receive forgiveness of sin and live as disciples, in faith and repentance
  • serve needy people with compassion, pursue justice and peace, and care for creation.

3. Historic Truths of the Christian Faith

As a community of believers in Jesus Christ, we bear witness to the following truths of the historic Christian faith which inform our understanding of God, humanity, and creation; motivate us for mission; and form the foundation of our commitment:

God is personal
God actively reveals his existence, power and glory through the created universe. God is also personal, creating humanity to be in relationship with himself; to know, love, worship and obey him. God also created humanity in the divine image, reflecting his lordship over creation, and so delegating responsibility for stewardship of the earth to humanity, as male and female. As bearers of this divine image, humanity also reflects other attributes of God, such as holiness, creativity and love. We reflect these divine qualities to one another through our human equivalents, namely righteousness, creativity, justice and compassion.

Jesus is Lord and Christ
Jesus is the Word of God, through whom all things were made; he is the Lord of all Creation. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. God in Christ Jesus is reconciling the world to Himself. Jesus is the eternal Son of God, the Messiah; uniquely appointed by the Father to bring the blessings of healing and salvation to all nations. The Lord took on our human nature by a virgin birth as Jesus of Nazareth and entered into both our joy and our suffering. He taught and modelled the character of the kingdom of God to which he calls his disciples. When Jesus died on the cross he took upon himself the sin of the world, bearing its full penalty and removing its shame. Therefore, we are reconciled with God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. On the cross Jesus defeated the powers of evil and made God’s offer of reconciliation available to all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or any other social identity. By his bodily resurrection, Jesus defeated death and initiated a new humanity. Through his ascension he was exalted as Lord of all. When Jesus Christ returns he will execute God’s judgement; destroy Satan, evil and death; and establish the universal reign of God.

God the Holy Spirit is present
The Holy Spirit has remained active ever since creation. The Holy Spirit convicts humanity of sin and judgement, leads us to faith and repentance, and provides transformation and empowering action for justice.  The Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus to dwell in all believers, enabling us to live in unity and to bear the fruits of holiness, Christ-likeness and practical obedience. The Holy Spirit gives gifts and empowers believers to discern truth, pray effectively, proclaim and demonstrate the gospel, and prevail over the forces of darkness.

The Bible is the Word of God
The Bible is the authentic Word of God spoken through human authors under the full inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It gives the account of creation, the fall, redemption and new creation. It is true and trustworthy in all it affirms, revealing God’s identity, character, purposes and actions throughout history. Therefore, God has supremely and uniquely authorised the Bible to guide and govern our beliefs, values and behaviors.

Humans have sinned
All humans have sinned by rebelling against God, rejecting God’s authority, and disobeying God’s Word. Our rebellion has alienated us from God and has unleashed the destructive powers of sin and evil. Our sin distorts the relationships within our families, our communities and our cultures. It adversely shapes economic, social, political and religious structures, resulting in injustice, inequality, poverty and abuse of the environment. Human rebellion deserves judgement and leads to eternal separation from God.

Humans are intrinsically valuable
The image of God in humanity, although distorted by sin, remains the basis of the uniqueness, dignity, sanctity and equality of all persons, without distinction. God is unchanging in love, despite human rejection, and cares for all people in all their cultural and ethnic diversity. Therefore all people are equally valuable in the sight of God, and he is reaching out in grace to save and transform all people through Jesus Christ.

The Church participates in God’s mission
The Church exists to worship and glorify God for all eternity, as well as to be a distinctive community of holiness, compassion and justice. As such, the Church stands in continuity with God’s people throughout the ages and is called, as Abraham was, to be a blessing to the nations. Therefore, the Church is commissioned by Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to participate in the transforming, wholistic mission of God in history.

What Makes Interserve Different

International

Interserve is an international organization with 14 national councils and over 800 cross-cultural workers – whom we refer to as Partners.  An International Leadership ensures the development of the fellowship’s purpose, vision, direction, standard and systems. Each entity is responsible to implement these on behalf of the whole fellowship, developing them in ways that are contextually appropriate.

Inclusive

We celebrate the diversity that exists in the Body of Christ and welcome the distinctives that each denomination brings to our fellowship.  We welcome a rich diversity of cultures, providing opportunity for growth and learning. We also affirm that women and men share in the full range of ministry and leadership roles.

Wholistic

We believe that mission is our participation at God’s invitation and command in God’s goal to redeem God’s creation.  Therefore, our participation is wholistic, embracing the whole context of the individuals and communities we serve.

Embedded

Our Partners work in the heartlands of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism.  These are areas where roughly ninety percent of the world’s unreached peoples live and only three percent of Christian workers serve.  Since these contexts are significantly different from ours, we emphasize that long-term, career service is the best way to effectively serve the peoples of these areas and glorify God.

Discipleship Focused

Being and making disciples cannot be separated from each other. Therefore, we are committed to the personal growth and development of our Partners. In addition, we are committed to seeing the transformation of individuals and communities in our areas of service through their encounter and ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ.  Since this transformation begins and expands at the relational level, it is natural that the sharing of our gifts, knowledge, experience, and walk with Christ take place in the context of our interpersonal relationships.

Extension of the Church

Local bodies of believers, here and abroad, are God’s vehicles for mission.  For churches in the USA, Interserve acts as a facilitator and extension of their involvement in worldwide service.  While abroad, Partners identify with and support the development of local churches in their areas of service.

The History of Interserve

Interserve USA has a double heritage — that of a British organization founded in 1852 in London, and an American one founded in 1860 in New York City. Both organizations worked in Asia and their works ran parallel with similar goals until 1976 when they merged.

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How Did It All Begin?

The lives of nineteenth century Indian women were hard, even if they were from high-caste Hindu or wealthy Muslim families. Young girls were married off in childhood and became the property of their husbands. They were confined to the women’s quarters of the husband’s family, called zenanas. In those days even wealthy women were not educated. And they were deprived of adequate medical care since all the physicians were men. The most egregious example of the oppression of women was the Hindu custom of suttee (widow burning). A Hindu woman was held somehow responsible for her husband’s death and by immolating herself on his funeral pyre she could hope to cleanse herself of this sin.

In 1851, a high caste Hindu woman in Calcutta named Mohesuri was publicly baptized. She and her cousins had found a Bible, had read it, and Mohesuri had come to believe in Jesus Christ as her Savior. Mrs. Mackenzie, the wife of an English merchant working in India, heard about this conversion and wrote to a friend in England, Lady Mary Jane Kinnaird, who was married to a member of Parliament. Mrs. Mackenzie described to Lady Kinnaird the miserable plight of women in India. Lady Kinnaird was moved by Mrs. Mackenzie’s compassion for women in India.  As a result, on March 1, 1852 Lady Kinnaird founded the London Board for the Calcutta Normal School and insisted that the organization be interdenominational. She wrote, “If we can give the women of India the power to read, and the Book to read, God will bless His Word.”

Meanwhile Across the Ocean

While this was happening in England, in New York City Sarah Doremus heard a missionary from China speak about the need for women to reach women in the East. She was the wife of a prominent businessman. In spite of the resistance of many male mission leaders in America, Sarah Doremus founded the Woman’s Union Missionary Society (WUMS) in 1861. This was the first foreign mission society in America to have soley women Board members and only women missionaries. The organization was also interdenominational. This was unheard of at that time. In 1862, their first missionary, Miss Harriet Britain set off for India.

Expansion

In 1880 the London Board for the Calcutta Normal School added medical work to its ministry and changed its name to the Zenana Bible and Medical Mission (ZBMM). In those days women doctors were a rarity. However, both the UK and US had few problems finding dedicated Christian women physicians to send. Many of these women entered the field of medicine in order to be missionaries. In 1883, the WUMS began medical work in China and cooperated with other churches and mission groups.

A New Century, New Challenges

In 1936, the ZBMM was having severe financial difficulties and another world war seemed imminent. The Board voted on whether or not to be absorbed by their Anglican counterpart, the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society. By one vote the board decided to remain independent and interdenominational.

The 1950s brought many changes to these two missions. In 1951, work in China ended for WUMS, but the door to Nepal opened. WUMS became a member of the United Mission of Nepal. ZBMM was already a member. In 1952, one hundred years after its founding, ZBMM approached Jack Dain and Alan Norrish to lead the mission forward. This was the first time men were given an opportunity to join the organization. Under their leadership the mission grew. Auxiliary committees were formed in a number of countries. These committees soon became full sending National Councils. The direction of the mission now came from all the Councils – each Council with one vote. The ZBMM had moved from being a British organization to being an international one. The ZBMM also began nationalizing many of their institutions and property.

In 1957, the organization became the Bible & Medical Missionary Fellowship (BMMF).

In 1964 the U.S. Council of BMMF was formed under the guidance of the BMMF Canadian Council. The Canadian Council continued to guide the administrative policies of the U.S. Council until 1974 when Dr. Jay W. MacMoran was appointed as Acting Director. The founding Charter Board members of the U.S. Council included Dr. C. Everett Koop, the former Surgeon General.

A Time of Expansion

In 1970, WUMS changed its name to the United Fellowship for Christian Service (UFCS) and men joined their Council. After this serious discussions began about merging with BMMF. In 1974, Alan Norrish came to the U.S. to initiate the merger process. By 1976 the merger was complete and BMMF International opened its office in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. That same year the U.S. Council became fully independent of the Canadian Council and Rev. T. Laurence Wynne became the U.S. Director. In 1986, Dr. Ralph Eckardt took over as the U.S. Director. Soon after BMMF International changed its name to the International Service Fellowship, now commonly known as Interserve. In January 2004, Rev. Douglas Van Bronkhorst became IS USA’s Executive Director, and more recently, in January 2013, Dr. Patrick Krayer assumed this role.

Looking to the Future

Interserve has 161 years of servanthood and service. Our mission has always been to glorify God by serving his Church and represent Jesus Christ through wholistic ministry where He is least known. Times have changed. The world is not like it was in 1852. These changes present new challenges. New challenges bring new opportunities. We are as we always have been- servants for the hard places.