Missionary Stories

“Planting” in the Front Yard

“In all that I do—preaching, teaching, training [church] planters, etc.—I am constantly working to help people understand the gospel,” Noah Oldham said.

As the North American Mission Board’s Send City coordinator in Saint Louis, Missouri, Oldham coordinates planting churches in the greater metropolitan region. This involves working with church planters as well as the church partners who join with them. He is also lead pastor of August Gate Church. This multilocation church plant is a sending church for other church plants.

“But one of the most profound individual situations that happened didn’t happen in either of those contexts.” It happened in his front yard.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Jared and Tara Jones

Jared and Tara Jones knew that God could do a lot with something little. But they never imagined just how many doors He would open through their young son, whose adoption people had told them was almost impossible in Japan. In the East Asian country, 40,000 children live in orphanages, but parents rarely give up their rights so that a child can be adopted.

But the Joneses knew God had placed a baby on their hearts, so they prayed, and not too long after, they both got the impression that they were praying for a particular expectant mother. Soon after, God opened the doors and gave them favor with Japanese social workers, Tara Jones said.

“The birth mother had asked to meet us, and it was the most emotional day,” she said.

The Joneses thanked the young mother for her courage, for her choice to give him life. They prayed God’s presence would be so strong in the room that the mother would remember that day and God would fill her with peace all over again.

“We wept, and so did the social worker,” Tara Jones said. And the Joneses walked out of the hospital and onto the train with Ezra in their arms.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Brian and Heidi Frye

Because there are so few activities targeting children of collegiate church planters, they are immersed in church-planting events alongside their parents. “Children spend far more time learning the gospel and seeing it work in the lives of college students who come to their homes, teach them on Sunday mornings, and who babysit as their parents lead, teach, disciple, and mentor,” explained Brian Frye, collegiate evangelism strategist in Ohio. The end result is a life-changing experience for them. “It is very normal for children of collegiate church planters to say, ‘I want to plant collegiate churches when I grow up.’”

Ministry/Witnessing Tools

Below are examples of ways Frye and his wife, Heidi, successfully plant collegiate churches in Ohio:

Praying for May*

“May’s mother called from another province, saying that May had an evil spirit inside her and asking if I would go see her immediately,” Helen Caldwell shared. “Due to the fact that May was recuperating from surgery, I interpreted that to mean that May was feverous—an infection from the surgery, perhaps.”

Caldwell grabbed the thermometer, dropped her schedule, and drove into town. Thinking this wouldn’t take long—assuming she’d take May to a doctor—she went alone. “When I get to May’s neighborhood, I begin to get nervous—abandoned and semiabandoned buildings, trash everywhere, teenagers standing aimlessly around. But I park the car, go in the house, and call for May. No answer. Now I am really nervous.”

An upstairs door opened, and a young man called out, saying May was upstairs. Caldwell found May silently lying on the floor, her eyes closed. “I speak to her—no response. I ask the man what is wrong, and he says, ‘She has an evil spirit inside her.’ I’m still assuming she has a fever, so out comes my thermometer. Getting May’s temperature is difficult, but she finally opens her mouth enough—perfectly normal results. Now I am beginning to catch on.”

Missionary Spotlight Update: Doc and Dee Douglas*

You’ve probably heard the term “heart language.” It describes the mother tongue of a people group through which communication flows freely and clearly. For the Deaf in the United States, it is “heard” through the hands of American Sign Language.

Until recently, no theological education using this optimal mode of communication was available to prepare Deaf Southern Baptist believers for mission service with the International Mission Board (IMB).

Missions Field of Many Languages for California Missionary

In his missions field, California missionary Howard Burkhart is often surrounded by people whose language he can’t always understand. That one daunting fact hasn’t stopped him from founding churches among 21 different language groups for the past 3 decades.

In 1984, Burkhart signed on with the North American Mission Board, then called the Home Mission Board, as the state missionary for Deaf people. His wife, a high school teacher for Deaf students in Southern California, taught him sign language. For 16 years, Burkhart worked with hearing-impaired people, all the while learning.

“Deaf people don’t expect everyone to learn their language,” he said. “They do expect to be treated as peers and as equals.”

Further, Burkhart said, hearing-impaired individuals have just as much right to pursue God’s call in their lives as anyone else.

“It has been extremely rewarding to have helped start several Deaf churches and trained Deaf pastors and leaders,” he said. “To see them fulfill God’s calling in their life and to see the impact they have made has been rewarding and fulfilling.”

Celebrating Answered Prayer in Colombia

Brenda and Fernando Larzabal have served with the International Mission Board for 14 years, mobilizing the local church and sharing the gospel with the unreached indigenous people groups of Colombia.

They have been blessed by the prayers of God’s people in the 2 focal points of their ministry:

  • investing in the next generation of indigenous university students
  • training, mentoring, and developing strategy for 4 other teams through a national missionary agency

Brenda, who leads and mentors the all-female indigenous student ministry team, shared how important those prayers have been this past year. “We began this semester feeling that God was about to do something new and something big. We needed to find a new location for the student center much closer to where the students live. That would not be easy.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Travis and Staci Kerns

God is continuing to build His kingdom in Salt Lake City, Utah, according to Send City missionary Travis Kerns.

“We’ve seen God graciously bless us with 2 new church plants so far in 2017 and expect to see more before the end of the year,” Kerns said. This is an answer to prayer.

God also blessed the city with church-planting interns and apprentices. These college students spent the summer serving with the North American Mission Board’s GenSend program and working to see the kingdom expand in the most lost city in the United States.

“We also [had] 3 college students here for the summer [of] their own accord who [worked] directly with church plants in a specific area of ministry,” Kerns said, noting these students raised their own support.

Keep on Truckin’

Life on the road with an 18-wheeler in the United States can be hard. But there are relaxing truck stops along the way and comfortable berths and even satellite TVs in many trucks. Life on the road in West Africa is very different.

Truckers face long delays at border crossings with no facilities. They may sleep on mats by their trucks, cooking over open fires. They sit in the shade of their rigs for hours or days . . . waiting . . . talking . . . waiting. “They are sitting there with nothing to do except hear the gospel,” said Katee Sheppard*, an International Mission Board missionary in Burkina Faso.

So she began sharing oral stories from God’s Word, targeting truck drivers, and from there, training more and more nationals to do the same thing. As trucking routes connect all of Africa, the vision was for those West African truckers who became believers to share the gospel all along their routes. Ordinary truckers have become carriers of the divine message.

Connect with Others

Everyone has a story—good times or bad, sorrow or joy, boring or exciting. And just as we are all unique, our stories are unique.

In the past few years, Danielle Gonzalez’s story has been one of “wearing many hats” as she serves on staff of New City Church in New York City. (New City is a part of the North American Mission Board’s Send North America strategy to plant churches in major urban areas.) Presently Gonzalez is director of ministry administration, handling everything from logistics for Sunday mornings to helping in the accounting department to helping implement new ministry projects.

Since her story includes God’s story, she looks for places where the gospel is not present and discovers ways to take her story to the people there. Gonzalez has taken her story to local hangout places and workplaces.

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