Missionary Stories

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: 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.

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.

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