Supporter Story: Norm Pankop is a Modern Day Apostle Paul

November 14, 2017 by Sarah Cunningham in Letter Writing

When I first exchanged emails with Open Doors supporter, Norman Pankop, he was doing exactly what I heard he was known for: rallying his local congregation to care for the persecuted church. 

On the day we spoke, he was recruiting fellow church attenders to participate in Open Doors’ effort to write underground believers in North Korea.

To ensure a strong response, Norm and his friends wrote example letters packed with subtle promises of God and invited members to sign them.

“This morning,” Norm told me, “We got 48 responses from the 115 people in attendance.”

While Norm said he rightfully considered the effort a success after more than 40% of his congregation participated, he still emphasized that he hoped to do more. “We hope to have almost all of our members participate eventually.”

I was so touched by Norm’s efforts that I asked him if he would share some of the ways he rallies his congregation to support the persecuted church. He graciously agreed.

I hope his thoughts bless you as much as they bless me.

Sarah: How did you first learn about the persecuted church and the work of Open Doors? And how old were you at the time? 

Norm: I was 68 years old  when I heard news media accounts of the brutality of the Islamic State. I was not aware of Open Doors or any of the other organizations at the time so I decided to become a modern day Apostle Paul, writing letters to the churches and hoping they would be read and distributed there. This attempt was a colossal failure. I was ready to give up until I found the Open Doors website on the internet which overcame all the obstacles I had faced in my solitary effort.
Sarah: What made you decide to get involved? How did God draw you into supporting this work?
Norm: I didn’t need to decide because the decision had already been made; all that was needed was the opportunity to take action. I explored the entire website and was probably a pest to the Open Doors office with all my questions. This journey has been filled with ups and downs; bumps in the road still happen. When they do, God provides me with the good swift kick I need to keep going.
Sarah: When did you begin sharing the needs of the persecuted church with your congregation and how long have you been doing so?
Norm: Around early 2014,I began making frequent announcements during the services and putting notices in the church bulletin and newsletter about the Open Doors website and activities along with asking others to join me in writing letters. I was a new and relatively unknown member at the time. We have been active for about four years now.
Sarah: How do you go about passing on stories of persecution to your church?
Norm: We encourage people to visit the Open Doors website and publish our own monthly newsletter which is read almost exclusively by a handful of our consistent supporters. It is available by e-mail and print copies in the church. We are just beginning to reach out to our youth in hopes of increasing our readership and participation. We have seen incredible accomplishments from them in the past and we are hopeful. Nothing they do surprises us any more.

Sarah: How do you encourage the congregation to get involved?

Norm: Along with our newsletter, we use our church bulletin and newsletter, announcements during services and flyers. We are heavily involved in the North Korean letter writing campaign at this time. During our first week, we received 48 responses out of 115 attending the services. We are pleased but hopeful for many more! We credit the letters we wrote ourselves with this success. We kept it simple. All people had to do was sign their first name and put the letter in our mailbox.

Our greatest success to date has come though the Open Doors Bible and Gospel Advancement program which we began in early 2016. We sent 133 Bibles to believers through the end of that year from a church with about 150 members. We have been generously supported by our Missions Board and United Methodist Women along with our small change jar in the church. We also provide refreshments periodically with all profits given to the Bible program.  We emphasize small giving on a regular basis. We are focused on our mission; we don’t allow fund-raising to become a distraction to our work. 

Sarah: How does serving alongside Open Doors in ministry to persecuted believers impact your own faith or grow your spiritual life? 

Norm: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” and “my cup runneth over” are more than pleasant thoughts to me. Having spent much of my life helping others, I know the rewards of service. I always receive more than I give and it is impossible to ever catch up. And how do I give money yet have as much or more than I had before I gave? I believe these deep truths have to be practiced before one can believe them. Using pure logic, they don’t make sense and remain a mystery.

As I age, I have been blessed with an able assistant (Kara Rupp) who does more work than I do. She is fully capable of continuing this ministry beyond my lifetime. I could not continue this work now if it were not for the computer skills she has and the energy that I don’t have. I have learned nothing is a “do it yourself” job but I hope to continue this work until the end. It is a valuable gift from God.

Please join us in praying for Open Doors supporter, Norman Pankop, that God will increase his ministry as he serves the persecuted church from his local community. We also invite you to share your stories about how you’re supporting the persecuted church and to find a way to get involved that is a good fit for you.

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