Missionary Stories

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.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Steve and Jen Hagen

Jen Hagen reported that a partner, George*, in the mountains has a heart for an unengaged, unreached tribal group and the Hagens have been praying for a way to engage this group. They recently discovered that 2 men from a “great organization” have been trying to get into the area to reach this very group. The men have been denied access and George is trying to help them get permission to enter that area. “Will you pray with us for wisdom for these guys as they try to gain entrance and for favor with the officials?” Jen Hagen asked.

The Hagens have prayed for at least 7 years to find a way to help the Agta tribal people develop new sources of income to combat their extreme poverty. A few months ago, they came into contact with an American family who had just come to the mountain area to develop livelihood projects for tribal people. Through a series of circumstances, this family has decided to partner with the Hagens full time. Praise God for this answer to prayer. Pray for this family as they adjust to life in the Philippines, develop relationships with the tribal people, and discover what projects would be the most effective for the Agta people.

“Church” Is a Verb

“My passion is the university student,” said Chris Julian, a university student worker. He and his wife, Melody, have devoted their lives to students. They started working with students in their hometown of Memphis and then moved to South Carolina and Alabama before settling in Brazil about 20 years ago.

Now in Sao Leopoldo, they work with students and started a house church called Zoe, which means “abundant life” in Greek.

“We teach that ‘church’ is a verb and not something we do once a week,” Chris Julian said.

Although Zoe meets once a week like any other church, the gathering celebrates “where we’ve seen God moving the week prior.” They share food, testimonies, prayer, and Bible studies and then seek ways to engage the community.

“We’ve worked in slums, given out free hugs and hot chocolate at metro stops, and held block parties in our home,” Chris Julian said. This comes easily for Melody Julian who has the gift of hospitality and loves to cook.

A Church Grows in Brooklyn

Born and raised in Westchester, New York, James T. Roberson III was a typical high school student and athlete.

“Though I grew up in church, my relationship with God was defined more by praying for wins in football and passing classes in school,” Roberson said honestly.

After graduating from high school (which he calls a miracle), he was off to Valley Forge Military College. He later graduated from James Madison University (JMU). It was during his college years that he became involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, which intensified his relationship with God.

“[In college], I was introduced to a consistent lifestyle of living for God,” Roberson said. And that is where he met his wife, Natarsha. The couple have served a wide spectrum of people through campus ministry at 3 universities in Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and Texas and 4 church plants in Maryland, North Carolina, and Georgia.

In 2013, the Robersons, along with their 2 young daughters, moved to Brooklyn, New York, to start The Bridge Church.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Josh and Tiffany Lenon

Josh and Tiffany Lenon have included relationship-building principles in planting Red Door Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Now they are extending their efforts to Cincinnati’s second Red Door Church.

City church plants, especially those with a millennial base, typically rely on electronic media to reach their communities. And Red Door Church has an especially effective online presence.

However, such sites are also used to communicate with a much wider community. The Lenons are grateful when others outside their city visit IAmRedDoor.org for updates, especially when the news those visitors read fuels prayers for the ministry. Some may be motivated to not only pray but also support this effort with gifts—financial or service-oriented.

The Value of Building Relationships

“We have a front row seat to see people experience forgiveness and freedom. We’ve seen marriages restored, relationships mended, and people discovering their purpose in Jesus. There is absolute joy in this!” Sterling Edwards said of being a church planter.

He and wife Jenna have been church planters in New York for 10 years. When the Edwards first moved from Houston, Texas, to Long Island, they connected with the first people they met: post office employees, a restaurant owner, and a man at the golf course. These people became the first attendees of their church, Crossroads Church of Long Island in North Babylon. As time passed, people introduced them to other people and their circle of friends widened. And their church’s membership grew. The church currently meets in 4 locations each weekend.

The Edwards still make developing relationships a priority, because growing churches is not about watching a structure go up—it’s about the day-to-day development of relationships with people.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Josh and Christine Andrews*

“Pray that Christians in America will continually lift up their Christian brothers and sisters in Syria in prayer,” Christian worker Christine Andrews asked.

As war in Syria continues, many Syrians are starving and in desperate need of relief. The United Nations has increased its efforts to deliver food and medicine to the Syrian people. The physical and spiritual needs are many. Pray for Andrews; her husband, Josh; and their 4 children as they work to meet these needs.

Pray also for them as they continue to study the very difficult Arabic language. “Since we want to learn Arabic so that we can share truth with the lost around us, we must spend many hours in school studying the language and then must spend many hours practicing the language out of school. All the while, we are busy parents with active kids and a calendar full of activities related to our children as well as business to take care of and housework to do. Sometimes, it is very difficult to make time for all of the studying we must do to succeed in this goal,” Christine Andrews shared. Pray for her and her husband to learn the language and be able to communicate God’s love to the Syrian people.

Surrender Brings Blessings Multiplied

Surrendering to Jesus may require giving up something extremely important to do the unexpected.

Brenna Stull experienced that when she and her husband, Chris, felt God prompting them to relocate to plant Wellspring Church in Goodyear, Arizona.

Leaving McKinney, Texas, meant uprooting—in particular—one of their teenagers who had influence and promising opportunities at his high school.

“My thought was, ‘How could we do this to Derek—moving right before his senior year?’” Brenna Stull recalled.

The next day, she heard in a sermon that whatever a person is unwilling to lay down to obey Christ has become an idol.

“My heart was pierced,” she said. “I confessed . . . and surrendered myself to His will.”

The day before school started in August 2013, the couple and their 5 children arrived in the Litchfield Park/Goodyear area west of Phoenix. The Phoenix metropolitan area is home to nearly 5.4 million people. Only 12.6% affiliates with an evangelical congregation; 62% has no religious association.

Pages

Back to Top