Missionary Stories

Meeting Challenges and Opportunities in Ukraine

Linda Gray faces daily challenges as she serves as a single missionary in Kharkov, Ukraine. Whether dealing with vehicle maintenance problems, overcoming preconceived notions about Baptists as a cult, or working with leadership in the churches, Gray knows where to seek help, where to give a strong witness, and where to cooperate for the proclaiming of the gospel message.

Almost 98% of Ukrainians would identify themselves as Christian because they were baptized into the Orthodox church as infants. But only a small percentage of Ukrainians are born-again followers of Jesus. Though Gray has been a missionary for 18 years, she has spent 13 years in Kharkov. In previous years, she worked with church women’s groups, small-group Bible studies, and English as a second language, but now much of her focus is helping to minister to more than 200,000 Ukrainians in her region who have been displaced by war.

Starting Over Again

For Loren and Karen Dickey, the beginning of 2017 brought many challenges as they moved from Veracruz, Mexico, on the Gulf Coast inland to the Bajío. This region is considered the “Heart of Darkness,” the least reached area in Mexico, where only about 2% are Christians. This was the Dickeys’ fourth move in 18 years as International Mission Board missionaries in the Americas (having served in Nicaragua, Chile, Peru, and Mexico), but they sensed that they were “starting over again.”

From the onset, the couple knew this move would be different. Even though they only moved to another state in Mexico, they are learning the culture of the Bajío. They are also “still getting a grasp on Mexican Spanish,” which is different from the Spanish they’ve used before.

Missionary Spotlight Update: David and Regina White

Missionaries David and Regina White in Guatemala share that the believers in Nearar are making an effort to share the gospel in the Nenoja area, which is about an hour’s mountainous walk away. The Whites share that the citizens of the spiritually dark Nenoja area have been resistant to evangelical efforts thus far but believers from Nearar have been attempting to visit in the area every Saturday. Pray for the family in Christ of Nearar as it leads the effort to reach those in Nenoja and for the lost who need the hope of Christ. Additionally pray for the church in Nearar as it pursues building a facility in which to worship.

The Whites ask for continued prayers for their Sunday Bible studies in Nearar and Thursday gatherings in Muyurco. Additionally they will be participating in and encouraging Bible studies on Sunday evening in Chiquimula and Zacapa for which they covet your prayers. Lastly lift up the Whites as they continue work this spring while transitioning to depart for stateside assignment in July.

Breaking Down Walls and Building Relationships

A circle of friends surrounds Melissa* and lays hands on her shoulders as they pray for her healing from breast cancer. Deborah squeezes Melissa’s arm in encouragement and to remind Melissa that she’s not alone.

Melissa and her family attend Harvest Church at Anthem, which Deborah Bishop and her husband, Mike, planted in Florence, Arizona. She had not been attending the church for very long before she received the cancer diagnosis.

“Melissa has said more than once how thankful she and her family are that God brought them to our church because of the love and support they have received,” said Deborah, a North American Mission Board church planter. “They love hearing the Word of God preached each week and she says that it always speaks to her and her family.”

Recently Melissa’s cancer went into remission.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Garth and Patty Leno

On February 10, The Gathering Windsor helped some very special members of its community make lifetime memories when the church hosted Night to Shine, a prom night experience for people with special needs.

Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, Night to Shine is centered on God’s love, which made it an ideal outreach event for The Gathering, whose mission is to bring glory to God through lives changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In a Facebook post, Pastor Garth Leno wrote that the church was “praying that God [would] empower our planning team to create an unforgettable event that will make every participant feel like a King or a Queen for the night.”

The event held special meaning for Leno and his wife, Patty, as their 30-year-old daughter, Jamie, attended Night to Shine—her first prom. The event was a significant opportunity for the church as well, Leno said.

Moving Forward

Jesse and Kathy Morales moved from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Cochrane, Alberta, in 1989 to attend Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary. In 1994, they started a home Bible study that grew into a church in Calgary, Alberta. They were planting their second church when Jesse became terminally ill with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and died in 2009.

Kathy found a new direction in ministry with the University of Calgary women’s basketball team. Last year, her missions group began serving a monthly home-cooked meal for the women, always making sure there was food left over to take for the next day.

At first, Kathy did not share Christ or pray because they were on university turf. One day, the basketball coach asked her to have prayer and a short devotion with the women. At the end of the season, he asked her to continue doing it the next year. When he learned about a summer missions trip to host a sports camp in northern Canada, he decided to take his women “on mission.”

God Never Fails

Bob and Pam Brownfield met at church when he drove down from Alaska to go to school at Auburn University in Alabama. Upon graduation, Bob worked as an engineer, while Pam was a clinical microbiologist. When God called them to be missionaries, no organization would appoint them because Pam has lupus. Finally the directors of African Bible Colleges urged them to obey their calling and trust God with Pam’s health.

In 1994, they arrived in Malawi, along with their 4 children. There were many adjustments to be made during their 2 years there. The biggest adjustment at first was all the family members being together most of the time, but they quickly learned to love that. The children missed their activities like ballet and gymnastics. Grocery shopping was a problem because the products available changed from day to day, causing Pam to have to improvise menus.          

Missionary Spotlight Update: Martin and Debra Hasler*

Celebrating American holidays in a different culture, especially in the Middle East, provides the Haslers with an outreach opportunity.

“We usually have big holiday celebrations at our house where we share about Jesus and what He did for us so that we can have salvation,” Debra Hasler explained.

“Recently the groups have gotten so large that we could not fit everyone in our house. Our last celebration, we had over 100 people come for a big holiday meal and celebration where we shared with them about how Jesus died for our sins to free us and give us salvation. These events are big events to plan, but God makes it work every time.”

On the missions field, the entire family—Martin, Debra, and sons Robert* and Michael*—works together to make things happen because God always has a plan. What Debra Hasler has learned is “God does not seek to keep us in the dark about what He wants us to do.”

Missionary Spotlight Update: Enio Agüero

Chaplain Enio Agüero believes chaplains are ministers called by God. He asked that others support chaplains by praying for them, making ways to help them serve. He said, “Prayer support, and I don’t know how to describe it: Do whatever you have to even if it’s stepping aside when you see a need and don’t know how to react. Call somebody. Don’t stay still. Don’t do nothing. Somebody else might be able to help that individual. And that individual may be going through something in their mind after losing everything or receiving a notification, or whatever it is, and you may be there. And if you don’t know what to say, find someone who will help them. Don’t leave them hanging.”

Enio Agüero is featured in the January 2017 Missions Mosaic Missionary Spotlight.

Dianne Swaim has answered God’s call to serve as a hospital chaplain in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Obedience: Always the Best Choice

In 2015, Jack and Melody Williams* left Benin, their home of 24 years, to reestablish an International Mission Board presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Benin was not an easy place to live, but Melody Williams fell in love with the country and its people. The Williamses learned French, Benin’s official language, and Fon, a language spoken by about 1.2 million Beninese. Learning Fon helped Melody Williams lead many to Christ.

The grief of leaving behind friends and ministry partners in Benin still lingers, but the Williamses are not only seeing a tremendous work of God in DRC but also being content with difficulties for Christ’s sake.

Though DRC is considered a “reached” nation because 80% of the population claims Christianity, some of its evangelical churches have been corrupted by the influence of animism, spiritism, witchcraft, and sorcery.

“During a war, those who had known Christ did not pass on their faith and teachings on repentance, surrender, and the cost of discipleship,” Melody Williams said.

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