Missionary Stories

Missionary Spotlight Update: Brian and Becky Harrell

Former local witch doctor Adelina is still following Christ. Shortly after her conversion, she came to a meeting covered in painful boils. Becky Harrell was teaching about how following Jesus is not always easy. When Becky spotted Adelina sitting in the dirt, covered in boils, she thought she would use Adelina as an example of faithfulness in hard times. So Becky asked Adelina, rhetorically, if following Jesus was easy.

Adelina responded, “Yes. It is easy.” Becky thought she must have misunderstood the question and asked her again. Adelina had the same reply and added, “Before I followed Jesus, I used to live in fear of the spirits, but now I have peace.”

In a village where Adelina shared her testimony, an old woman gave her life to Christ. This woman’s family had hired a witch doctor to build a spirit hut for her to help her through severe sickness. When she came to Christ, she demanded that the spirit hut be torn down despite her family’s threats of not taking care of her and making her pay back the money that had been spent to build the hut.

Opening Doors in Difficult Times

There are so many reasons that living in South Sudan would be difficult. Civil war has been a part of life for decades. First the southern part of Sudan fought with the northern part until it broke away in 2011. Then disagreements between factions in the new government began to escalate into violence.

But for missionary Carrie Lewis, those concerns are just the background noise that she lives with daily in South Sudan. She also has to forgo the luxuries of a hot shower or an occasional fast-food meal. Since her family lives far from any large cities and relies on solar power in its home, life takes on a much slower pace.

The Lewis family, originally from northeast Louisiana and southeast Texas, is ministering to the Toposa people of South Sudan. Life among these people is not only slow but also very relational, Carrie said. “If you are on the way to go somewhere and a visitor stops by, you are expected to stop everything and visit as long as the visitor wants.”

A Ministry in Transition

The summer of 2016 brought a big transition to the life and ministry of International Mission Board missionaries James and Angela Roberts and their 3 children. They moved from northern Poland, where they spent more than 5 years, to London, England, where they will work to connect with American churches, international business professionals, and university students interested in doing missions work.

Angela Roberts said her primary responsibility at this life stage is to be a mother to her daughters who range in age from 9 years old to 25 years old. Her children are able to connect her to people she might not otherwise meet, and they open the door to having spiritual conversations with other moms.

Church Planting in Arizona

Debbie and Mike Bishop are experienced at listening and responding to the call of God as He has moved them many times throughout their 40-year marriage. Debbie Bishop is originally from Alabama and Mike Bishop from Illinois, but they have lived in Southern California, Canada, Texas, and Arizona.

God moved them to Florence, Arizona, in 2010 to plant Harvest Church at Anthem, where Mike Bishop is the lead pastor. “The people we minister to in our community, comprised of families and retired people, come from various religious backgrounds and places in the country. We have people in the community that are unchurched, and we live in an area where there is a large Mormon population,” Debbie Bishop said.

Her main responsibility as a church planter’s wife is to encourage her husband. Beyond that, she serves as children’s ministry director and leads a women’s Bible study in her home.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Antonio and LaRonda Anderson

God has been good to Antonio Anderson and his church, providing a new worship site in a more convenient location and people to serve alongside them. His core team is very helpful in serving at Hope Church Philly. David Pearson, the regional leader for the Philadelphia region’s church planting catalysts, has been instrumental in helping the church craft its ministry vision and how that would look and work in its community.

The congregation is becoming more community focused—going on prayerwalks, handing out water, and speaking to people about the church. “God has been speaking to me about having a community day, a town hall meeting, for the people to express their community desires and how Hope Church Philly can help,” Anderson shared.

God has also been good to Anderson’s family. They just returned from a vacation in Canada. Anderson said he is enjoying having weekly family devotions and watching his 2 daughters grow and mature in ministry. One day, the children’s church teacher got sick on her way to children’s church and Anderson’s oldest daughter asked if she could teach the lesson, stirring his heart.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Mark and Claire McIntosh*

After more than 15 years as missionaries, Mark and Claire McIntosh have successfully adjusted to most language, cultural, and daily challenges. They acknowledge, however, how frustrated they grow when they stumble over “the same things we have already stumbled over.” Most of that stumbling may relate to spiritual difficulties.

One less spiritual problem many of us can readily identify with: Claire McIntosh’s hatred of rats. Although she probably shared that tidbit of information with tongue in cheek, it serves as a valid reminder. How often do we pray for the “minor” daily frustrations we face? Missionaries receive no pass from them. If anything, they intensify because of the distance from much of their support system.

Training Other Missionaries to Serve in the Americas

As the field medical coordinator for all missionary personnel serving in the Americas, Jennifier Barger helps those entering the missions field in a medical capacity understand their role as they prepare to minister to people in the Americas.

A former nurse practitioner, Barger is familiar with the maladies that plague the human body. An International Mission Board missionary for nearly 2 decades, she also understands the spiritual needs of sin-sick people. Not so coincidentally, it was a series of medical issues her family experienced several years ago that most recently reminded her of her identity in Christ.

Within 2 years, Barger and her daughter both underwent surgery. Her husband, Don, suffered a mysterious illness that sent the family back to the United States for treatment. Then, in one particularly harrowing experience, her eldest child endured respiratory distress while in the middle of the jungle. There was no way to get medical treatment until the next morning. These experiences might drive some away from their beliefs, but they drove Barger further into the arms of her Savior.

Giving Hope to Survivors of Disasters

It’s been more than a decade since Henrietta Gentry first took up the plow—or in her case, a chain saw—in the missions field with Texas Baptist Men’s (TBM) disaster relief ministry. She has served the survivors of disasters—Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Rita, and a volcano eruption in Hawaii—in the hopes that those in the most desperate situations would realize God’s plan for their lives.

“We want to be able to help and give hope,” Gentry said.

She currently serves as the chaplain coordinator for TBM’s disaster relief ministry, equipping men and women to serve a missions field ripe with those seeking hope. It’s a physically demanding job, Gentry said, but one that carries the added joy of pointing others to Jesus.

“It’s giving a cup of cool water in Jesus’ name,” she said, referencing Mark 9:41. “We minister to the physical needs first. Then, once they are comfortable, the chaplain can talk about spiritual matters with them.”

Praying for Guatemala

“We were praying over a Guatemalan town. It had a very small and weak evangelical presence,” shared Mark Fricke, an International Mission Board missionary to Guatemala for 22 years, “and was very well known for its syncretism stronghold—mixing of religion with ancestral beliefs and traditions. Their beliefs are centered on working to gain salvation and to please or honor a saint or spirit.”

Fricke and his team began asking God to work and send someone who would plant himself or herself there as His witness. They prayerwalked and volunteer teams from the United States came, working and praying in that area with them, as well.

“Sometimes we would take 3 steps forward and 2 back. But we [kept] praying faithfully, even when answers didn’t come.” They knew fighting this type of battle could be done only on their knees. And they praised God, believing that He loved those people and had a plan He was working out for their good and His glory.

The answer came.

Pushing Past the Honeymoon Stage of a Church Plant

No church bells rang at that time. But George and Janelle Lim fell in love with Glastonbury, Connecticut, years ago. Finally called to plant a church there, they moved their family of 5 in August 2015.

“Living here was surreal,” George Lim shared. “Like most missions, we hit the ground in the honeymoon stage. Yet a few months later, we were back to reality. Like most of New England, this is spiritually hard ground. Glastonbury is an affluent and educated town. People in this community have all the material things they need.

“By October, we were lonely, tired, discouraged, and without resources to accomplish what God called us to—plant a church. A friend said, ‘Let’s stop talking about how hard the ground is and start talking about how great our God is.’

“Crying out to God, we remembered our purpose: to make much of Jesus, to bring people to Jesus, not to do something cool or to be known as church planters. Furthermore we recognized that when we do too much in our strength, the natural response is to take credit. But times of complete weakness [are opportunities] to see God’s power and for Him alone to be glorified.

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