We Simply Can't Foresee How the Lord Will Lead - and That's OK! :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

We Simply Can't Foresee How the Lord Will Lead - and That's OK!

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Learn all you can, because you never know how God might want to use what you learn in the future. This was the main focus of a challenge that Mark Mavar, missionary to Panama, gave to our short-term mission team in 2004.

The idea really made an impression on me personally, and it has been a driving factor in my experience and outlook since. I was willing to do whatever God desired, but I did not yet know I would be serving on a foreign field myself. By the time God gave me the desire to teach Bible in a foreign field four years later, I had applied myself to furthering my skills in many different areas, and I was eager to discover what God’s choice of field might be.

Key experiences

While studying in seminary, I began a rotation of preaching at a small ethnic Asian church in Greenville, SC. I developed a close friendship with several Asian RAN (Restricted Access Nation) students who impressed me with the need to consider their home country as a place of ministry. Arriving there for the first time in 2010 on a mission team, I taught for several weeks at the school where I teach today. God blessed me by giving me a love and burden for the people and ministry opportunities in that RAN nation.

My wife and I started dating at the end of 2010. She told me that she had an interest for missionary service in Asia and was willing to go there if the Lord was directing me. We were married in 2012. While I continued seminary study, my pastor asked me to lead our church’s college and career group, and a little later, I was elected as deacon. These positions proved valuable in helping me practice what I was learning in the classroom, and the Lord used them to show me that if I wanted to teach people how to study the Bible or lead a church, I should build experience in these areas myself. My wife and I were also able to take a survey trip to a few areas in Asia in 2014, which helped us decide how to start serving in one of the countries there.

Unexpected but valuable twist

After I finished seminary in 2016, we arrived in our targeted RAN in time to begin the 2016-17 school year but with an unexpected twist. We had contracted to teach at a school in our designated city, but we were reassigned to a school in another city at the last minute. Even though we felt let down initially, we quickly came to understand that God wanted us to start there. He was showing us from the outset to depend on His plans instead of ours. Being able to adjust plans on the fly is a vital necessity here as it is in many countries.  

Our five-year plan was to learn as much as possible about this RAN’s church, language, and culture. We set about trying to learn about the church by meeting local believers. Some leaders in the area taught us much about the needs and mindsets common to many assemblies around us, and we also joined a college outreach through which we were regularly able to share the Gospel.

In 2018, we began serving at the medical college in our desired city for ministry. It wasn’t readily ideal for helping me step into a Bible training ministry, but it was clear that God was leading us there. We were excited to participate in kingdom-building through well-established evangelism outreaches and were glad to serve in the college’s small assembly. I began to preach periodically, to help lead Bible studies and services, and to make decisions pertinent to our assembly. It was a great opportunity to learn more about ministry and evangelism from veterans.

COVID-19 and more of the unexpected

In January 2020, COVID-19 broke out in our RAN. This caused some major changes in our team’s ministry. First, several of our team members were visiting their home countries for winter break, so our small assembly was split. When COVID hit North America, our assembly’s ministry went online. Second, our students stayed home for the entire spring semester, and we conducted all our classes online. The following year the school’s policies restricted unofficial student/teacher gatherings, which almost entirely eliminated our customary outreach activities. We were no longer permitted to invite guests to our on-campus home.

By the end of 2020, we were faced with serious questions since none of our absent team members had been able to return, and the school’s policies toward gatherings and outsiders had not changed. We deliberated over how we could continue to minister to students and whether we should continue as an assembly or join another assembly quite far from us. In the end, we chose to continue and then formalize as an assembly. We were able to find a small place close by to rent which is suitable as a meeting place, and a local brother helped us acquire it.

Shaken up but stretched

I’m now leading our assembly, and so far, I’ve definitely been learning. I’ve also been able to lean on much that I learned in the past. I really love studying God’s Word in-depth, and it’s been great to be able to share what God is teaching me on a more frequent basis. Our group is seasoned and patient and they love to help each other, so it couldn’t be a better ministry to start pastoral outreach.

If you had asked me six years ago what I hoped to be doing here six years later, I would have told you I would like to be working in a training ministry. That’s not where I am presently, but that’s okay. I’m doing what God has led me to do for now, and in so doing, I’m still helping to build His church while gaining experience that will ultimately help me train pastors or do whatever else God might desire of me in the future.