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This article, which includes information used in a brochure for those looking to serve as missionaries under Grace Ministries International (GMI) sometime in the future, was written by Jeremy Clark, Executive Director of GMI. Jeremy and his family served as Costa Rica missionaries under GMI from December 2004 until August 2012 when he started as Executive Director. During the years prior to joining GMI, Jeremy worked in the Law Office of Garwood and Clark in Huntington, IN. During that same time he worked 3-1/2 years as a part-time deputy prosecuting attorney for the Huntington County Prosecutor’s Office. While practicing law, he also worked as a part-time youth director.

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Perhaps you are either seriously considering missions as your new vocation or you finally gave in and have made that commitment to pursue missions full-time. Now you may wonder what you can do to get prepared for such a life-changing venture. Once you apply to Grace Ministries International, you will go through different orientations, perhaps specific training geared for your ministry, and probably language studies. However, you are wanting to know what you can do before all that happens to better prepare yourself and your family to serve the Lord around the world. Maybe you have not even contacted us yet, but you still want to get ready for this next chapter in your life. Here is the best piece of advice I can give: live here and now like you will live there and then. Let me explain this by taking you through a few areas of life where you can begin to live now like you will as a missionary then.

Do Ministry Now. Serving the Lord is the Christian norm. It is not a special calling nor is it something you begin doing after you pick up your luggage in customs in your new host country. It is something you do now and forever because you are saved. Not writing to pastors or missionaries, but to everyday believers in the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul writes, “…walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Ephesians 4:1). We were called through Christ’s death and resurrection—the ultimate and only sacrifice available for our sins which had eternally separated us from God. That’s quite a calling! Not only does this implore all of us to live honorably and righteously before God in this world, but if you want to serve the Lord on the mission field, you need to practice now what you hope to do then. Are you discipling others now? Are you teaching or leading Bible studies? If you are inclined to serve or are talented at administration, how are you using these gifts for the Lord now? Do you share the gospel with others or are you waiting until you reach the field before you exercise your “calling” to do so? God desires that all men be saved (2 Timothy 2:4) and He has given us the privilege of sharing the gospel of the grace of God until He returns. Let’s take advantage of the opportunity now!

You may have a full-time job which you believe makes it nearly impossible to give much time to the Lord. Remember, when you are on the field you will be the full-time missionary encouraging people who are working 40, 50, or 60+ hours a week to give of their time to the Lord. Not only do you want to practice good ministry habits now, but it is not a bad idea to put yourself in the shoes of those local believers with whom you will be working on the field.

Practice Self-Motivation. Much of mission work requires initiative and intrinsic motivation. There usually is not going to be someone around telling us what to do or how to do it. While not all of us are leaders of others, we can all practice a degree of independence. What I mean by that is simply getting the job done as if it depends on us alone, doing it well as if no one else is looking, and seeing it through to the end. This is a skill and a work ethic which is learned and refined through practice. Here is a small example. No one told me to create this brochure. I saw the need, began the project, asked others to help, and now you are reading it!

Hand Over Ministries. If you are in ministry or doing ministry, what are you doing to hand over your areas of responsibility to others? In a practical sense, you may very well be leaving your ministry and heading to the mission field soon. So, who is going to carry it on when you leave? On another level, training others to do what you do (and even doing it better) is excellent practice for missionary life. As a missionary, the ability to train others to do a job and turn them loose to see it grow and flourish is a valid measure of success on the mission field.

Relationships. Practice good relationships now. You have all kinds of relationships at the workplace, at church, in your neighborhood, within your extended family, and in the community. When you get to the mission field your world, in a relational sense, will get a lot smaller. You may be working with only one or two other missionary families. You will not have a family network immediately available to you nor will you have that wide circle of friends you have here in the States. So, having healthy relationships is all the more important. You cannot be indifferent to your relationships on the field as we might be more inclined to do here in the States  knowing that we have other people, friends, or family members we can depend on for help or friendship. Practice treating people here as if you depended on them there. “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).

Family and Marriage. The same is true for your immediate family. The missionary life will draw your family closer together in ways you never imagined. However, if you do not learn how to deal with the stresses of life as a family now, the tensions you experience on the field could also potentially have the power to pull your family apart. One valuable discipline you can practice now is serving together as a family as you would then on the field. You will get to know your spouse’s and children’s strengths and weaknesses and how to set them up for success and avoid failures.

Coming at the subject of relationships from another angle, if you are single and want to be a missionary, why would you ever date someone who has no interest in missions? You are certainly free to change your mind and decide you do not want to serve as a missionary, but if it is important to you and you think it will be for some time to come, do not settle for someone who does not share your same goal. On the flip side, if you are married and you want to be a missionary, but your spouse does not, you cannot force him or her to share your goal. All you can do is share your desire, pray, and wait.

Finances. You are not going to be rich on the mission field so practice living here as you would there. If you have debts, aggressively pay them off. Not only is debt one of the biggest impediments to people serving overseas, but by disciplining yourself to pay off your debt much sooner rather than much later, you will naturally force yourself to live on a reduced income. Even if your debts are paid off, put away as much as you can into savings. Not only is it good to save, but once again you will see just how far you are able to live below your means.

Begin to look at spending in a different light. What do I want and what do I really need? What things must I have and what things are dispensable? You may have never thought about this before. The reality is the options for clothing, food, household items, and electronics will be drastically limited by the lack of availability, different options, or the increased cost of obtaining some of them. Instead of being shocked by what you cannot purchase then, reevaluate your wants now and find out what it is you really do not need.

Health. Living on the mission field typically leads to a healthier lifestyle. You tend to eat better and exercise more if nothing else because people walk to more places than people who live in the States. Start exercising and eating healthier now. Moving, adapting to a new culture, and learning to live in new surroundings are tiring enough. Why not reduce some of the physical stress by getting into better shape now which will certainly help you then? Not to mention, being healthier now will lead to fewer physical problems down the road.

Education. Aside from the requirement to have at least one year of college-level Bible education to become a GMI missionary, you may simply want to further your biblical knowledge. If you are going to teach, you need to learn. If you are going to train, you will want to be equipped. While this applies to your knowledge of the Bible, it also applies to any other area of teaching or training you anticipate doing while on the field. Furthermore, take what you learn now and put it into practice here. You are not automatically going to become a great teacher/discipler/equipper there if you are not doing it here. Ask other mature Christians whom you know well what areas of your ministry you can improve upon or where you need to step up your game so you can serve effectively on the field. This might require additional training or more ministry experiences.

Language Studies. Education also encompasses language learning. You are not going to become fluent or conversant in a language using Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, or poring over grammar primers and vocab cards, but it is a start! If you know the language of the region where you want to serve, start learning it. Sure, you will need to go to language school, but why not make it easier by learning as much as you can now? You will develop a basic understanding of the grammar and some vocabulary which will help you acquire the language that much faster meaning that your meaningful ministry will also begin that much quicker.

Perspective. This might be the hardest thing to do now which will prepare you for life when you are on the field, but it is time to change your perspective about what really matters in life. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is by considering all things in light of your eternity with Jesus Christ and the eternity of the lost around you and around the world who do not know Him. When you do so, most other issues in life will fall into place. Paul often thought through these kinds of issues even as it pertained to his own life. He says in his letter to the Romans, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3). Essentially, his passion for his lost Jewish countrymen was such that he wished he were the one separated from Christ, not them! From prison he writes to the Philippian Church, “But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:23-25). Do I want to die to be with Christ or live for the purpose of bringing others to Him or closer to Him? That is an eternal perspective.

When we think this way our possessions, income, comforts, and conveniences do not seem all that significant any more. They are no longer pursuits which drive us day to day, but Christ and His salvation for others takes preeminence in our minds. What begins to happen is that when you think in this manner you declutter your life. In essence, it becomes that much easier to pick up and go. No longer do you have the attachment to so many physical things you do not think you can part with, your routines, habits, and endeavors which might hold you back. Having an eternal perspective frees you to enjoy your heavenly citizenship (Philippians 3:19) while moving about the earth He created to share His salvation and His Word with the people He created.

Now get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

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This is the 10th year of Kids Games at Grace Bible Community, San Antonio de Belen, Costa Rica.  Last week 242 kids attended. The church was completely full on Friday night with the kids and their families who attended the closing session–most importantly, the gospel was clearly shared with everyone who came to the event. During the week of Kids Games, Bibles were handed out to kids who didn’t have a Bible and wanted one. In addition to this good report, the church also celebrated 32 years of its existence this month.

 

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The church in Nagarote is called “Arraigados”–the purpose is to remain rooted in Christ. The youth group has 30 young people who are learning every Wednesday about the grace of God and how to live in grace. The children group grows more and more with about 40 children arriving every Saturday to hear how Jesus lived on this earth. In the church, four new families are beginning to attend and seem to be interested in learning more about the Bible. We continue to disciple 12 people with the goal that three of them will become the future leaders of the church.

This month we are building a cement court with the help of two Texas churches and Berean Bible Church Spokane. We continue to repair and improve the kitchen and pavilion, and soon we will have a church sign. Then next month we will have an outreach activity with the opening of the court, and we will probably have a soccer and basketball tournament to reach the community which is very excited about this project.

          

Top left: ready to pour the concrete for the court

Top right: listening to a message in church

Bottom left: children listening during an outreach event

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May 7, 2017, a Bible study meeting in the home of Alex and Deltha Gurlart embarked on a new journey as the established Iglesia Bíblica Gracia (Grace Bible Church) in the inner city of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. It was a night to be celebrated by all. A congregation of three dozen people, old friends and new friends, representing 10 different countries gathered together for this special event. As a church it is our priority to develop a reputation for being a church that is passionate about preaching and teaching the Bible.

We are so grateful that several people have joined us since that first Sunday and continue to come back because they want to the dive deeper into the Word. This same desire carries over into our working toward establishing a presence in the community. We have been so thankful for the assistance from a team of girls from the US, along with Grace Bible College student, Rachel Stevens, as we take these first steps of branching out beyond our neighborhood.

In the months of July and August we will be hosting the EXITE team, as well as the Breakthrough Tae Kwon Do team. We look forward to seeing how God is going to impact Ciudad del Este through their hearts and efforts to serve Him. Thank you so much for your prayers and support for God’s ministry here. Please be in prayer for everyone traveling to minister here over the next few months. Please pray for Iglesia Bíblica Gracia, that we can take advantage of every opportunity to share the gospel and the love of Christ.

Team Paraguay — Alex, Deltha, Jerry and Sandi

     Alex visiting with a couple at church during coffee time.

 

 

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Pastors Mathews Selengu (Grace Churches of Malawi National Council Chairperson and Lilongwe Bible School final year student), Davies Balala (pastor at Chisiyo branch and Lilongwe Bible School second year student), and Joseph Asong went to Mauni, which is about two hours northeast of Lilongwe, on Thursday, June 15. They opened a new Chichewa Bible School Centre and taught the first 15-hour course: Methods of Bible Study. Eight students started the course and all eight sat through to the end. Given the brevity of the trip, we did not engage in evangelistic activities because the students needed all the time to catch up with homework and prepare for exams.

Please pray for the beginnings of this Bible school: pray for more students to attend and complete the courses; pray for wisdom and the ability to communicate well for those who teach the courses, pray for spiritual growth for all who are involved in this Bible school project.

* (The picture above is of the first class of students at Chichewa Bible School Centre.)

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The following was written by Frosty Hansen and first appeared in the Hansens’ recent email update. Frosty and Cathy are missionaries serving in Bolivia under Grace Ministries International.

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Three months ago we arrived in Bolivia fully aware of some challenges which lay before us. Some of these were personal – adjusting once again to life in Santa Cruz, getting up to speed with our Spanish, making needed repairs to the house, fulfilling residency requirements and purchasing a vehicle. Though Spanish is always a work in progress and the paperwork was more cumbersome than we anticipated, the final obstacles were overcome the last Friday of May when Frosty completed his three-week wait for a driver’s license and took possession of a 1999 Mitsubishi Montero. Thanks for your prayers!


But we did not come to Bolivia just to establish residency and become part of the organized mayhem which is Santa Cruz traffic. Grace Ministries International’s Bolivian partners, the Misión Evangélica Bethesda (MEB), requested assistance in establishing a theological training center which will equip men and women to serve both here in Bolivia and as missionaries to other Latin American countries. Though ministry training has long been a focus of GMI’s work in Bolivia, the formal training facility had ceased operation a number of years ago.


Since our arrival Frosty has met with the MEB leadership on countless occasions, discussing how to move forward. Since adequate facilities are a major need, a lot of time was spent examining and praying about potential plans for a new facility. In May the MEB tentatively approved a plan to add a second story to their existing building (picture and architect drawing above) to house the classrooms, library and office space of the Centro Teológico Bethesda (CENTEB). Demonstrating their commitment to the project and a willingness to make a sacrifice for the future generations, the MEB pledged to raise $15,000 toward the project.


Our recent bi-annual newsletter from GMI mentions GMI’s willingness to partner with the MEB in the construction project. If you did not receive our letter in the mail, you can read it HERE.

  

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Last weekend a family from Grace Bible Church in Alajuela, Costa Rica (Alvaro and Mauren Barrantes and their children) took another survey trip to David, Panama, to get a better understanding of what it would look like for a missionary family to live and serve there under the church in Costa Rica and Grace Ministries International (GMI). Panama is a country GMI is actively investigating as a potential new field and we would like your prayers as we continue to evaluate this option.

While in Ciudad de David, the Barrantes had three objectives to accomplish: 1) search homes for rent for future missionaries; 2) search schools for missionary children; and 3) see buildings to rent to start a church and check out the cost of land where they could build in the future.

HOMES FOR RENT:

When searching for homes to rent, there are a couple of things to take into account–the cost of rent, the area where it is located, and whether there is adequate drinking water because the city has been going through a supply problem. Another thing to consider is the climate of the city and whether you will need air conditioning and how much this will drive up the cost of electricity.

AVAILABLE SCHOOLS:

Alvaro and Mauren visited two schools while on their trip. One was The Oxford School where everything is in English. Another school is bilingual and the cost of tuition is lower. There is also a third school called the Adventist College of David that could be considered. Generally speaking, the quality of education is lower in Panama than in Costa Rica.

LAND OR CHURCH BUILDING:

Because they had limited time on their trip, Alvaro and Mauren only saw one piece of land.

Several other important points were observed on the trip, such as the cost of vehicles and what it costs for gas. Food costs were approximately the same as Costa Rica but fast food costs were considerably lower in Panama. The Barrantes family was also able to make contact with a man (seen on the left) whose parents are members of the church in Alajuela. He is a musician and is a potential leader of the praise ministry in Panama.

Please pray for IBG Alajuela in Costa Rica and GMI as Panama is evaluated as a possible new field. Important decisions are being made as we pursue our goal of eight new fields by 2023.

 

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Below is what Milo and Raquel Seravalli, GMI Missionaries serving in Nicaragua, reported about the day the first service took place on the property:

Today was our first formal meeting on the property that God has provided for the ministry– and what we now call “Rooted” church (Arraigados).

At 3 PM we started the Children’s Club called “Come and See” (Ven y Ve). Our biggest fear was that the children who lived near our house would stop going to the group. The surprise was that all the children attended and they were joined by the children of the neighborhood San Julián where the church is located. We had a total of 60 children. There weren’t enough chairs or crafts for the children, but the leaders were able to minister to the kids. There weren’t enough cookies, but there was plenty of desire to learn about God.

At 6:30 PM we had the service for adults. Because we didn’t have enough chairs for the children, we rented 12 more; however, with 80 people, we needed about 30 more chairs. The good thing was that all those who were standing are people who ALREADY GO TO THE CHURCH – the people we have invested in for more than three years, those who already have a relationship with Jesus. They were ready to serve, some ministered to the guests, others served food, some gave their testimony in the service. There was praying, singing, caring, and giving a Bible lesson to the children – everybody loving each other.

At the end of the afternoon we saw the big list of things we need: classrooms for children, an auditorium, chairs, speakers, and microphones. But those things are the least important compared to what we already have — disciples — people ready to share their faith with others. Prayers. The Holy Spirit. The Word of God. What else do we need? The One who started the work will improve it until the final day.

The Name:

During those days we were praying for an identity for the church, and we both had in our hearts the desire to bear fruit, we found the verse Colossians 2:6-7 which says, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, live in him now, rooted and built up in him, confirmed in the faith as taught, and full of gratitude. “With this they understood the importance of roots to bear fruit.” That’s why we chose the name, Rooted, for our church.

A seed sown to bear fruit:

As part of the program, we made a “time capsule.” This is a container that we filled with prayers, desires, photos, and stories of how this church started in Nagarote. We buried it and will open it again on May 20 of the year 2037 — in 20 years. A great road lies ahead.

How beautiful it is to know that God allows us to dream about the future of this church. So to see fruit we put “fertilizer” to those roots sown. We wrote a Mission, Vision, and Values, which give us a True North, an address.

The Mission: the mission of Rooted is to know, imitate, and share Jesus.

The Vision: the vision of Rooted is to evangelize the lost, edify new believers, equip disciples, and send leaders.

Our Values: we are Christocentric, bibliocentric, we pray, we disciple, we are united, we have grace, and we move in faith.

Maybe you couldn’t be here, but you are part of this church. Every prayer unites us. Every time we share what is happening in Nagarote, you do something that we cannot do from here. Thank you for being a part of the sowing of God, and if you have time, just pray and praise the Lord because of what He is doing in Nagarote.

Please enjoy the photos below!

                    

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What can I do now to prepare for life as a missionary?

This is one of those questions I am frequently asked by college students, recent grads, and families or individuals thinking about joining our missionary team. Recently, Grace Ministries International put together a brochure which gives practical tips advising how a person who has decided to become a missionary or is seriously considering it can start preparing now for this adventure of a lifetime. Click HERE to read that document and feel free to contact me if you have any questions (616-241-5666 or gmi@gracem.org). You can also fill out this Getting Acquainted Form so we can get to know you and be in touch soon.

For some of you, having read that last paragraph, the wheels are turning and you want to know what the opportunities to serve with GMI are and what it looks like to become a GMI missionary. As you check out those links please know that we need your help as we continue to open new fields and expand the work on established fields.

One of the joys of serving as a missionary is being a part of the Lord’s work as you get something new started. In Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, around 30 people attended the first service on May 7 in the new facility the GMI missionary team is renting. Click HERE to see a video of that first service. Likewise, Emiliano and Raquel Seravalli had their first service on May 20 attended by 80 under the new pavilion on the property in Nagarote, Nicaragua.

GMI missionaries Brett and Debby Chapman, serving with Jeff and Sally Roth, are busy in the city of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, where they are leading Bible studies, running kids clubs, teaching English, and much more. All of this they do with the goal of evangelizing and planting churches that teach God’s grace to their Nicaraguan neighbors. They would love to host ministries teams to help them reach out to more of their community as they build relationships in Matagalpa. Again, please contact us if you would like more information about sending a team to work with the Chapmans.

Last weekend a family from Grace Bible Church in Alajuela, Costa Rica, (Alvaro and Mauren Barrantes and their children) took another survey trip to David, Panama, to get a better understanding of what it would look like for a missionary family to live and serve there. Panama is a country GMI is actively investigating as a potential new field and we would like your prayers as we continue to evaluate this option.

In my last email update, I told you about a new GMI missionary family, Givemore and Sylvia Nyakambiri, who will serve with our missionary team in Malawi for a time before moving to neighboring Mozambique to evangelize, disciple, and plant churches there. Since they are originally from Zimbabwe they do not have a support base or home church here in the U.S. from which they can raise funds. I would encourage you to consider investing in this family as they ultimately will help GMI open Mozambique as a new field. Monthly support is key for any missionary since this lets them know how much support they can consistently depend upon to carry out their ministry. They are just starting out and need both monthly support and also special gifts. If you would like to give towards the Nyakambiris’ ministry through GMI, click HERE.

Thanks for your faithful prayers for and interest in Grace Ministries International. All that we do is a team effort and you are part of that team!

Pressing towards the goal,

Jeremy Clark
GMI Executive Director

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This brief article was written by Erin Kemper, our Social Media Specialist at GMI. She was raised in Tanzania as an MK (missionary kid) along with her two sisters and a brother. 

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Ruby opened the door with a big smile and outstretched arms with hugs for all of us. She had a blanket laying over one arm, and when all six of us made it inside, her husband Herb took Dad to watch football and sat him in a nice comfy chair. Ruby handed my mom the blanket and showed her to a room for a nap and then took us four kids to the table for some fun and games. We were eventually led outside to the lawn where we could see Mt. Saint Helens. Somehow in all that time Ruby also prepared an amazing meal which I obviously remember.

This couple refreshed my family by putting themselves in each of our shoes. They gave rest and allowed their home to be used for a place to restore and renew. They encouraged us and listened. They embraced us and let us relax and be ourselves. They served us and found unique ways to minister to my family…because sometimes those in ministry need to be served too. I know my parents, my family, needed it that day, and because Herb and Ruby were sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading, my family got the boost they needed that day to continue the job that was before them.

I tell you about this sweet couple because I want you to realize that it doesn’t take much to make a big impact in someone’s life, specifically today talking about our missionaries’ lives. They are normal people just like you and me. They are excited about what God has called them to and they eagerly want to share about what all that entails with those who have a listening ear. But they also need rest, encouragement, and someone to be sensitive to what their particular needs might be at that time.

So, from things I remember people doing for my family, I decided to make you a list. That way, at your next church missions conference or the next time your missionary friend is on home assignment, you have a few more ideas for ways to bless them.

10 Things to Do to Encourage a Missionary on Home Assignment:

1. Give the missionary or missionary family a gift card to go out to a restaurant. If they have kids, offer to babysit while they go out.
2. Have the missionary or missionary family over for dinner (into your home) and let them rest and play games with no agenda.
3. Take a missionary out to coffee and ask the deep, hard, exciting questions with genuine care and interest.
4. Give them a little spending money to do something fun on the road. (They will spend hours driving while on home assignment.)
5. Make sure they are suited with warm coats and boots for winters or swimwear for the summer.
6. Some MKs get warn thin. During a Sunday School hour offer to take them aside and let them hang out with you instead of going to their 10th new Sunday School class.
7. If they have kids, take them to a park and just let them run, play, laugh, and “let their hair down” while the parents do whatever they want and/or need to do.
8. Take them to the movies.
9. Prepare your church family beforehand with information about the visiting missionaries and encourage people to invite them into their homes for meals, take an interest in their lives, and build relationships with them that could remain after they are gone.
10. Keep in touch after they leave with notes of encouragement, phone calls, and a plan to reconnect on their next home assignment.

NOTE: One response to an update letter from the missionary can be a huge encouragement.

Do you have ideas you would like to share with ways you have been able to bless and encourage a missionary or missionary family? We would love to hear from you at GMI! Email us at gmisocialmedia@gmail.com

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