Missionary Stories

Hospitality Brings Jesus’ Love to Neighbors

Each day, the population of Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, increases significantly. Phoenix grows by about 300 daily, or about 100,000 annually.

With only 1 Southern Baptist church for every 18,500 people, it is an ever-present challenge to get the message of Jesus Christ’s love to newcomers and the 5.49 million people already living in the metro area, said Monty Patton, a Send City missionary and founder and co-pastor of Mountain Ridge Church in Glendale, located northwest of Phoenix.

Patton works with sending churches and their church planters to establish ministries in Phoenix and Tucson. He; his wife, Nancy; their 2 daughters; and their son-in-law are all devoted to area church-planting efforts.

They have found that building relationships is essential in proclaiming Jesus Christ to the burgeoning masses—1 person at a time.

Simple Gestures Open Doors to Gospel

Mandy Wells prepares “memelas” (small tortillas brushed with bacon grease) with some national friends in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Sharing a meal or inviting someone into your home for coffee or water shows hospitality in this city of about 300,000. Though simple gestures, they create opportunities to establish friendships with indigenous people and share about Jesus Christ.

Wells and husband Jim are missionaries in an area of Oaxaca (pronounced wah-hah-cah). The couple and their 2 young children have been there 16 months.

“One thing that we really try to do is build friendships,” Mandy Wells said. “Whether people come to Christ or not after having heard the gospel, we will still be their friends and continue investing in their lives. . . . Simply spending time really getting to know people opens the doors for us to share the gospel with those around us.”

Although the nationals often mix religions and practices (idol worship, animal sacrifice, etc.), the majority of them know about Jesus Christ. Yet “they have no understanding of the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection,” Mandy Wells explained.

Finding Waldo

When Peter Assad was scouring the pages of the Where’s Waldo? books as a child, he had no idea that a couple of decades later he and his wife, Grace, would be planting a church in Waldo.

So where’s Waldo? At one time a town on the southeast side of Kansas City, Missouri, Waldo is now a lively family neighborhood and business district in the heart of the city, with a population of about 13,000. Assad said Waldo is “a very diverse area, boasting a small-town feel while remaining very much urban—young, old, rich, poor, white, black, and everything in between.”

In January 2016, he and a team of committed leaders launched The Church in Waldo, which is presently sharing a building with Antioch Baptist Church. “We seek to reach the diversity of Waldo through a diversity of ministries all united around this single theme: to know Jesus and make Him known,” Assad said.

Getting “Out of the Box” to Reach the Deaf

Deaf pastor and church planter John Wyble and his wife, Denise, serve the Deaf community through 2 Deaf congregations in Virginia. They use American Sign Language to communicate God’s message of redemption.

What are some of the challenges you face in reaching the Deaf and how do you deal with those?

John: We have to overcome the walls built up through worldly lifestyles. We have found through years of ministry that building relationships is crucial. By living a righteous and compassionate example, we are ready to share the gospel when the right time comes. One example is when deaf ladies at our church host a women’s retreat on the beach. They will pay the way for unsaved friends. They were thrilled when the unsaved woman Denise sponsored became a believer.

What are some of the ways your churches serve the community?

Just Another Mom

Tomoko joined the small group meeting at Miriam Christy’s home mainly as a chance to meet other moms—particularly expatriates who were living in Peru. Tomoko and her husband had moved to Peru from Japan for his job.

Each week, a group of moms gathered at Miriam’s home to hear her teach chronological Bible storying. In the course of the studies, a mom at the local school died of cancer. Miriam decided for her next study she would discuss what the Bible says about suffering and sorrow.

Tomoko later told Miriam that she was raised in a nonreligious home and had had difficulty believing in a god because of suffering in the world.

“Of course there is no God, because how could there be a god if things like this happen,” she would think.

After Miriam’s Bible study, though, Tomoko’s perspective began to change. When Tomoko’s husband lost his job, she said her first thought was, “There is no God!”

“But then she remembered what I had taught her and she said, ‘God is good, so maybe God has a better plan and this is just a part of it,’” Miriam said.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Holly Procita

The scent of buttery popcorn filled the community center as neighbors gathered for a movie night. Southwinds Church in Calgary, Alberta, partnered with the local community association to host the event. Holly Procita, community outreach coordinator for the church, and other church members served popcorn and juice to the 200 people who attended.

“It was the largest event of its type at the community center!” said Procita, who also serves with the North American Mission Board. “Pray that we can continue to provide opportunities for our neighbors to encounter our church family in fun and exciting ways.”

She recently helped train church planters in how to organize and host sports camps. She has hosted similar camps, and now she is helping church planters in Calgary and Edmonton use camps to reach their communities.

“I have learned a lot in the past 5 years and am really enjoying sharing what I’ve learned with these men and women who are reaching other parts of our city with the gospel,” she said.

The Campus Calls

Growing up as a pastor’s daughter, Sarah Martinez had a close-up view of what full-time ministry looks like. Yet she never thought that would be her calling until Christian Challenge recruited her to work at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, as a collegiate missionary.

At first, Martinez felt unworthy and ill equipped for the task God was calling her to do. However, she soon learned the wisdom of Hebrews 13:20–21 (NIV): “Now may the God of peace . . . equip you with everything good for doing his will.”

The mission and vision of Christian Challenge is to evangelize, disciple, and develop leaders. It shares the gospel and walks with students, equipping them to lead ministry and plug into local churches to utilize the talents and gifts God has given them. Martinez had no training in these areas, but God knew exactly what she needed. The hardest part came when she learned she would have to raise her own support. Her family and friends did not support her quitting her job to go into full-time ministry.

Mie’s Hope for Japan

Mie was born and grew up in Osaka, Japan; attended the University of Findlay in Ohio; and then returned home. She got a full-time job that moved her to Kobe, where she met Mark Busby, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary. They married in 2001 and in 2003, she became the first Japanese citizen to be appointed to Japan by the IMB.

One way Mie helps Mark lead the IMB team in Tokyo is by helping the other missionaries understand the life and culture of the Japanese people. Since Mie is Japanese, it’s natural for her to talk with the Japanese women and that’s where her ministry focuses. For the past 10 years, God has used her to minister to women who have children the age of her 2 children—John and Michelle. The work moves slowly; only recently did one of the women ask Mie to pray to Jesus for her family. Once when she tried to talk to a close friend about Jesus, she cut Mie out of her life and never spoke to her again.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Hernando Cardenas

Church planter Hernando Cardenas might say while everything changes, in many ways, everything stays the same. Families come to Chandler, Arizona; some are brought into Cardenas’s church; but after a short time, several families leave the area. Although Cardenas is reluctant to see these families leave, he knows this is one way believers take the gospel to other areas. In the meantime, new families join the local Hispanic community and the challenge is renewed.

Cardenas continues his ministry of friendship by helping local Hispanics find jobs and housing. By offering them help with basic needs, he and others show the love of Jesus in the most practical ways.

“We are adjusting to these changes and changing our mentality to see that the church in Chandler is a missionary hub for the Hispanic world. As for me and my family and the leaders I am training, we live to spread the good news of salvation.”

Cardenas continues to have chronic health problems. Pray he is able to continue his vital work among Hispanics in Chandler and Casa Grande. Ask God to encourage him and other believers as they provide a vital ministry to this transient population.

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.

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