Missionary Stories

Missionary Spotlight Update: Doc and Dee Douglas*

You’ve probably heard the term “heart language.” It describes the mother tongue of a people group through which communication flows freely and clearly. For the Deaf in the United States, it is “heard” through the hands of American Sign Language.

Until recently, no theological education using this optimal mode of communication was available to prepare Deaf Southern Baptist believers for mission service with the International Mission Board (IMB).

Missions Field of Many Languages for California Missionary

In his missions field, California missionary Howard Burkhart is often surrounded by people whose language he can’t always understand. That one daunting fact hasn’t stopped him from founding churches among 21 different language groups for the past 3 decades.

In 1984, Burkhart signed on with the North American Mission Board, then called the Home Mission Board, as the state missionary for Deaf people. His wife, a high school teacher for Deaf students in Southern California, taught him sign language. For 16 years, Burkhart worked with hearing-impaired people, all the while learning.

“Deaf people don’t expect everyone to learn their language,” he said. “They do expect to be treated as peers and as equals.”

Further, Burkhart said, hearing-impaired individuals have just as much right to pursue God’s call in their lives as anyone else.

“It has been extremely rewarding to have helped start several Deaf churches and trained Deaf pastors and leaders,” he said. “To see them fulfill God’s calling in their life and to see the impact they have made has been rewarding and fulfilling.”

Celebrating Answered Prayer in Colombia

Brenda and Fernando Larzabal have served with the International Mission Board for 14 years, mobilizing the local church and sharing the gospel with the unreached indigenous people groups of Colombia.

They have been blessed by the prayers of God’s people in the 2 focal points of their ministry:

  • investing in the next generation of indigenous university students
  • training, mentoring, and developing strategy for 4 other teams through a national missionary agency

Brenda, who leads and mentors the all-female indigenous student ministry team, shared how important those prayers have been this past year. “We began this semester feeling that God was about to do something new and something big. We needed to find a new location for the student center much closer to where the students live. That would not be easy.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Travis and Staci Kerns

God is continuing to build His kingdom in Salt Lake City, Utah, according to Send City missionary Travis Kerns.

“We’ve seen God graciously bless us with 2 new church plants so far in 2017 and expect to see more before the end of the year,” Kerns said. This is an answer to prayer.

God also blessed the city with church-planting interns and apprentices. These college students spent the summer serving with the North American Mission Board’s GenSend program and working to see the kingdom expand in the most lost city in the United States.

“We also [had] 3 college students here for the summer [of] their own accord who [worked] directly with church plants in a specific area of ministry,” Kerns said, noting these students raised their own support.

Keep on Truckin’

Life on the road with an 18-wheeler in the United States can be hard. But there are relaxing truck stops along the way and comfortable berths and even satellite TVs in many trucks. Life on the road in West Africa is very different.

Truckers face long delays at border crossings with no facilities. They may sleep on mats by their trucks, cooking over open fires. They sit in the shade of their rigs for hours or days . . . waiting . . . talking . . . waiting. “They are sitting there with nothing to do except hear the gospel,” said Katee Sheppard*, an International Mission Board missionary in Burkina Faso.

So she began sharing oral stories from God’s Word, targeting truck drivers, and from there, training more and more nationals to do the same thing. As trucking routes connect all of Africa, the vision was for those West African truckers who became believers to share the gospel all along their routes. Ordinary truckers have become carriers of the divine message.

Connect with Others

Everyone has a story—good times or bad, sorrow or joy, boring or exciting. And just as we are all unique, our stories are unique.

In the past few years, Danielle Gonzalez’s story has been one of “wearing many hats” as she serves on staff of New City Church in New York City. (New City is a part of the North American Mission Board’s Send North America strategy to plant churches in major urban areas.) Presently Gonzalez is director of ministry administration, handling everything from logistics for Sunday mornings to helping in the accounting department to helping implement new ministry projects.

Since her story includes God’s story, she looks for places where the gospel is not present and discovers ways to take her story to the people there. Gonzalez has taken her story to local hangout places and workplaces.

Missionary Spotlight Update: David and Chris Cole

This summer was an exciting time at David and Chris Cole’s church, Oak Tree Church in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. The church hosted a youth camp, a holiday fireworks display, and a craft day for women. The craft day was the first one put on by the church and connected women for Christ over a special, one-sitting project.

As kids go back to school during the month of August, family schedules become busier. Pray for the Coles, their 5 sons, and their church, as they, too, must manage busier schedules and work to continually point people to Jesus. Of the more than 20,000 people within a 3-mile radius of the church, 91% does not attend church. Pray for Oak Tree to be able to reach many families for the Lord.

Missionary Spotlight Update: George and Megan Lane*

“There are only a few believers in . . . 1 of the main villages we work in and the strongest believer is a 14-year-old kid named David*. He has only been saved a few years, but he is growing rapidly in his faith. He shares the gospel with some of his friends even though they don’t accept it and mock him some for it. He does not have electricity at his home, so when it gets dark there isn’t really anything he can do. But he has the New Testament on an audio device so he listens to that from nightfall until he goes to sleep. He knows the Bible very well! He can quote from memory many parts of the Bible. Since he doesn’t have the Old Testament on audio (and he can’t read very well yet), George has been teaching him the Book of Exodus. After teaching about Moses and the burning bush and how the voice from the bush said, ‘I AM,’ George flipped over to John 8, when Jesus says that He is the ‘I AM.’ As George was reading in [the Zarma language], David was pretty much quoting the whole chapter from memory!”

*Names changed.

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.

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