Best-selling author, humanitarian, missionary accepts English Ministry role at multi-ethnic congregation
By Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
CHARLOTTESVILE, VA (ANS – July 27, 2017) – Author and journalist Billy Bray has accepted a call to direct the English ministry at Charlottesville Elim Church, according to Senior Pastor, the Rev. Sung Il Shin.
Pastor Bray preached his first sermon July 23 at the Sunday worship service of Elim Church which meets at 1575 Avon Street Extended in the Calvary Baptist Church in Charlottesville. Rev. Bray chose Acts 1:8 as the theme verse for his message and future ministry in the parish.
He will serve in the international student ministry at the church as well as in preaching, teaching and counseling to children and couples in mixed-marriages. He is married to a Filipina and with his wife can counsel out of their 35 years as a bi-lingual couple.
Bray was born in Chicago, Illinois, February 23, 1947 and came to Charlottesville in 1991 to work for the Christian Aid Mission and has been in local churches and missions ever since. He was ordained into the gospel ministry June 15, 1991 in Chicago. He trained for the ministry at Moody Bible Institute.
Pastor Bray is the author or co-author of 13 books including Called to All: How I Discovered the Power of Yielded Life from Thomas Nelson WestBow Press.
He began his career in religious media and development as a short-term student missionary in the radical 1960’s.
As a student a Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, he heard George Verwer’s militant call to “forsake all and follow Christ” in 1965. This led him into a two-year training mission in the north Indian state of Rajasthan, a place still central today in the violent clash between radical Hindu nationalism and Islamic Jihad.
Although his mission was aborted after less than six months, Bray never really came home. He went on to Southeast Asia and began writing about Vietnam War issues as a free-lancer for international magazines. Based at the English-language Bangkok World and Bangkok Post newspapers in Thailand, he started a bi-vocational career as a missionary journalist and foreign correspondent.
Dr. Bray has worked in many global hotspots: places of crisis, disaster, famines and war. He has confronted and covered almost every major international humanitarian crisis since 1965 — from natural disasters to Muslim terrorism.
His focus on Christian efforts to rescue the poor and oppressed has helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars for Christian causes — mostly education, medicine, relief and development. He is comfortable discussing the needs of indigenous churches and missions in most of the world’s 200 nation states.
Bray has never kept any royalties or fees for his work. All the income is held in trusts for the missions he helps or has been donated to the non-profit organization he founded in 1973 while living in Chicago, the Christian Information Service, Inc.
Two of the 13 mission books he co-authored have topped one million copies in print — he is currently working on a family-lifestyle book aimed at young men (The Alpha Male Survival Handbook) as well as an inspirational autobiography.
For the last 35 years, Bill has worked side-by-side with his wife Ivy on almost all of his short-term missions. They have been frequent visitors to Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America — returning again and again to some countries like China and South Africa. They have often led small teams on their journeys for Christ.
The Brays “love story” began when he was on an assignment for Newsweek in the Philippines at the end of the Vietnam War. They have raised three children together and have three grandchildren.
“Ivy and I have never been Lone Rangers,” said Dr. Bray. “We have always worked as a team and with a team. We have always been supported by people of faith and prayer who have helped to strengthened us in times of trial.”
No stranger to the pulpit, Rev. Bray is committed to an international non-sectarian ministry to people of all faith traditions. He frequently teaches conferences, seminars and consults with church and mission leaders.
In an interview with ASSIST News (www.assistnews.net), Bray was asked how his work as a Foreign Correspondent and with International Students and in Global Crisis Hotspots prepared him for his new role in Pastoral Ministry?
“My work as a foreign correspondent has made this call very easy,” he said. “My bi-vocational media career has prepared me for pastoral ministry in a multi-cultural church in many ways. It is an amazing fit. We have a number of mixed marriages in our congregation — mostly American military who married Korean wives when they were in service.
“My work as a war correspondent in Vietnam took me not only into South Vietnam but to American support bases in Taiwan, Thailand, Korea, Japan and the Philippines,” Bray said.
He added: “As a result, I understand these men and their war brides. Now, as Elim Church seeks to reach out to thousands of international students here at the University of Virginia through our college ministry — I am experienced in cross-cultural communications.
“I also covered the whole war for the liberation of Bangladesh from start to finish — so I have a working background with Bengalis, Pakistanis and many Indian sub-cultures and castes,” he said.
“As a journalist, I traveled to 65 countries and focused on 28 Asian countries in particular including China. The Chinese are the largest group of international students here in the USA followed by Indians and other South Asians. When witnessing and interacting with overseas visitors, I have an easy rapport and I love their cultures, food and manners. While I was in their homelands on assignment, I never missed a chance to discuss religion, politics and history.”
Bray stated: “All this works together to make it easy for me to minister to international students and immigrant populations — since I am working with many Christians, we share the Holy Spirit and love of the scripture…so it is a natural fit.”
Bray said this is not his first pastoral call. “While a student at Moody Bible Institute, I was assigned to two church staffs for a total of three years. And of course, I have been in missions and churches all my life, although not full-time. And my current role at Elim is part-time as well — so it is not all that new.”
Will he continue his work with international students?
“I don’t see my role changing much,” Bray said. “I will still be writing and traveling –turning out my weekly article on missions and international student ministry, just as I do now. I think this will cause me to be more focused and disciplined however.
“At Elim Church, we have a weekly Bible Study Fellowship for international students –and an active campus outreach ministry at the University of Virginia. I will continue to serve the 30 other campus ministries at UVa as an advocate and liaison with the international student organizations both secular and religious.”
He said that Elim Church is nominally Southern Baptist but started out as a Korean- American congregation and is now seeking to transform itself into a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic congregation.
Most of the members of the congregation are Korean, Chinese or Korean Americans – and most of the children are speaking English as their mother tongue, so it is a congregation in transition like most ethnic churches here in the states.
Bray intends to remain the chairman and president of Overseas Students Mission — the original ministry which Bob Finley started to reach foreign visitors, along with International Students, Inc. after he left the International Student Ministry at Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship in 1953. Finley worked as a missionary to students in China, Korea and Japan before returning to the USA to start Christian Aid Mission.
“All the early Christian Aid native mission leaders were international students recruiting while here in the USA and I still see that as my ultimate mission,” said Bray.
Bray said he was amazed that God would work the way He has. “All my experiences and calling have been masterminded by Him to bring me to this point — and as I look back over the years, I see this is the way God worked all along. He prepares each of us to be His witnesses and servants wherever we are at in life. God has called each of us to use our vocational and cultural backgrounds to serve Him in the harvest — the Lord sends each of us to where we are at in his service.”
Bray stated that as a bi-vocational Christian journalist, he has always been a “faith missionary.”
“Even when I was on retainer with Newsweek, Reuters and even on salary with local newspapers — I always lived as a faith missionary. I went where the Lord sent me and when He sent me, and I trusted Him both for direction and financial support. My salary at Elim Church is tiny and I am still living and working on faith as I always have.
“This is true not only for me, but other missionary journalists at ASSIST News Service.”
About Author Billy Bray: Order Called to All and learn about this new book on his new “Yielded Life League” website — www.billybraycalledtoallbook.com
ABOUT OSM: Founded in 1953, Overseas Students is a faith mission which depends day by day on the prayers and support of Christians to help international students and missionary visitors return to all nations with the Gospel of Christ. OSM is a one of the lead sponsors of the International Student Day of Prayer and other vision-casting efforts on behalf of overseas students. We are members of the Association of Christians Ministering Among Internationals (ACMI). www.OSMission.org
STUDENT MISSIONARY SUPPORT: OSM sends designated support to partner missions and members in the USA and around the world as approved by our Board of Directors. You can trust OSM to get your missionary support safely to where most needed.
CONTACT: You may contribute to this ongoing ministry online at www.OSMission.org (or) by mail to P.O. Box 6511, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Call 434-227-0811 or 295-6488. All gifts are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. Checks should be made payable to Overseas Students Mission. THANK YOU.
The Rev. Bill and Ivy Bray
P.O. Box 6511
Charlottesville, VA 22906
434-227-0811 — email@example.com
Photo captions1) Billy Bray on assignment. 2) The Foreign Correspondent. 3) Billy Bray chatting with Dan Wooding at the NRB Convention. 4) Billy Bray today. 5) Michael Ireland.
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister, and an award-winning local cable-TV program host/producer who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ANS since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. Please consider helping Michael cover his expenses in bringing news of the Persecuted Church, by logging-on to: https://actintl.givingfuel.com/ireland-michael
** You may republish this or any of or ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net). Please also tell your friends and colleagues that they can get a complimentary subscription to ANS by going to the website and signing up there.