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What Happens When You Read Missionary Biographies?

Do you think, “I could never be a missionary like that!”

Do you get excited and want to go to the mission field?

Does it whet your appetite to learn more about missions and what it takes to become a missionary overseas?

Does it challenge you to live a life sold out to Christ?

Does it challenge your faith?

Remember you don’t have to travel anywhere to be a missionary. You can be a missionary right where you are in your own home, in your own neighborhood, and in your own circles you travel in every day. It doesn’t require you to travel overseas to share the gospel.

Here is a list of some great missionary biographies that you won’t be able to put down once you start reading them:

PEACE CHILD by Don Richardson



LORDS OF THE EARTH by Don Richardson

BOUND by Vicki V. Lucas


CAPTURED by Carolyn Paine Miller

BRUCHKO by Bruce Olson




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Article and Graphics Credit: Bethany Global University

Written by Lillian Hunsberger

The first of anything always seems to get the most attention. We know who built the first light bulb, or who was the first one to successfully determine energy through lightning.



Some of us might also know who made the first toaster, or the first car. We know a lot of the “first” milestones that occurred in the world. But if I were to ask if who the first missionary was, what would you say? Even if we stick to the New Testament, the answer is slightly unclear.

Some people would say Jesus, because well… the Sunday school answer could never be wrong. Others say, Peter, because he was given the first big sermon that is recorded after Jesus’ death. Still, others say that it would be Stephen because he was the first person seized and martyred for His faith. And even still there are those who believe it’s Philip when he travels to Samaria to preach.

So which answer is correct? They all are, depending on your definition of a missionary; interesting enough the word “missionary” isn’t even in the Bible.  However, it’s interesting to search through the first couple chapters of Acts and see who may actually fit the definition of “first missionary.”

Was Peter the First Missionary?

Peter was a missionary, no doubt. But the question comes to whether or not he was the first missionary. People look at the time when he preached a sermon during the Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41). This sermon was given to the onlookers that saw the effects of the Holy Spirit coming onto the believers. This was a sermon of love, but also of conviction.  Peter was trying to get the people to see the urgency in accepting the truth of Jesus, the reality of the Gospel.

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” —Acts 2:38-39

Explaining the gospel is a really big part of being a missionary, and is so important for an individual to take hold of. But that’s not the only thing that is important to take on the title “missionary”, let alone “the first missionary.”



In my opinion, Peter was being more of an evangelist in this situation. He was speaking to a group of lost, however, this was home to him. The Holy Spirit had just dwelled within them, and now He wanted to show those around Him the love and power that Christ instilled in him.

Was Philip the First Missionary?

The first story that comes up when thinking of Philip in my mind is Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. And this was a time when Philip really encapsulated “missionary”. But that is not the first time that Philip spoke the Gospel. Only a couple verses before the story of Philip and the Eunuch we see that Philip goes and proclaims Christ in Samaria (Acts 8:4-8).

In this situation, Philip did end up getting up and going. Which could help his case in being seen as the first missionary, but Samaria was considered to be “homeland” for the disciples.

Yes, he was sent off but it wasn’t uncharted territory, it wasn’t new for him. He had followed Christ to Samaria before and even in Acts 1:8, we see the words of Christ telling them that they will be going to all of Judea and Samaria.



We see that Christ had gone ahead and already went through Samaria in John 4, it was as if to prepare them for the Holy Spirit that would sweep through the land in time. There is a peace that must come from going to familiar places, smiling at old friends, working in the same place as you had in the past.

What’s the difference between missionary and evangelist?

So Peter and Philip were defined as an “evangelists” instead of missionaries, and you may be wondering what the difference really is.

It’s not an outrageous difference. But part of it is having a willing heart in order to “go”. This is part of the command that we see in the great commission. There is an aspect of leaving the comfort and finding courage in Christ that forces you beyond being an evangelist.



“So evangelism is speaking the gospel to everyone, especially those in your culture. Missions is realizing there are cultures and linguistic groups that don’t have anybody in them to do that.

And therefore we must make a special effort to learn languages, learn cultures, do all of the anthropological, methodological thought that is necessary in order to be effective culture-crossers to plant a church there who would then do evangelism.” —John Piper

Both are going to be used by God, and both have a major impact on the society. The only difference is one is in their society and the other is on a society across the globe.

Was Paul the First Missionary?

Some also believe that Paul was the first missionary. Personally, I take this stance in the sense that Saul (known as Paul) and Barnabas, who were sent off, to Cyprus (Acts 13:1-13).

After some research, I’ve come to the realization that Christ hadn’t been recorded going to Cyprus. This is “uncharted territory”. Paul wasn’t heading off to a place he had been before, but instead going off to where He felt God was calling him. There wasn’t hesitation or questioning of God. There was simple obedience to “go.”



“To stay here and disobey God — I can’t afford to take the consequence. I would rather go and obey God than to stay here and know that I disobeyed.” —Amanda Berry Smith

Fear is something that stops so many Christians from going, from doing the things that we think God is calling us to. However, looking at Paul, we see that those willing to go, willing to do the will of the Lord, are those that God used in amazing ways.

Was Jesus the First Missionary?

Oh the sweet name that you hear time and time again when you are in a children’s Sunday School Class, or even on a small campus like BGU.



People like Dave DeVries believe that Christ is the best missionary that there ever was. And rightfully so, but you can read more of his beliefs on his blog: The Greatest Missionary Ever. I don’t disagree that Jesus was the first missionary, in some ways. But there is also the idea of considering Christ a missionary at all that doesn’t sit right with me. A missionary is going out and telling people the good news, but the Jesus is the good news.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.   John 1:1, 14

I feel like giving Jesus the title of “first missionary” is limiting Him. It’s as if we are taking some of the glory and power of what He actually did for humanity. He created a path in which we can now become Christians and walk out our faith. God is the only reason why we can actually be a missionary, He is the reason behind it and the reason for it. But He, himself, is not a missionary.

So who was the first missionary?

To be honest, I don’t think it matters who the first missionary was.  It comes down to definitions and different ideas. On Bethany campus, I asked four different people and got four different answers.

What matters is that we have more missionaries to follow in their footprints. We need people who are willing to go and “take the gospel to where it’s not”. No, it’s not going to look exactly like the testimony of Philip, or the story of Paul, or the journey of Peter. But it’s going to be a leading from God according to His will.

We need missionaries, we are always going to need missionaries. Until every person has heard the Good News, until every tribe has the chance to praise His holy name, we will need missionaries.


Don’t get me wrong, the simple act of going isn’t the only qualification to becoming a missionary. Being a missionary is about devoting your life to God and essentially others. It’s about allowing God to work in the midst of the discomfort of being in a new place, and dedicating your future to an eternal mindset.

Being a missionary is so much more than just a job, it’s a calling. Though explaining and understanding that in complete detail would take a lifetime; thinking through the importance of a missionary and the job title is an important first step.

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Mike and Lynn Caraway who have served as GMI missionaries in Tanzania for many years will be traveling to Belize next week to survey that country as a potential GMI mission field. They will be staying with Matt and Lindsey DeYoung, former GMI missionaries who had to leave the field of Tanzania when their daughter Lola was diagnosed with leukemia. Following is an article that appeared in the “One Good Thing” section of the online edition of WZZM13, one of our local news stations in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on April 17, 2018.

Grace Bible College professor Matt DeYoung teaches students in Belize, after moving his family there late last year.

We are going international with today’s One Good Thing. A professor at Grace Bible College moved his family to Central America, and he’s invited some students along.

Matt DeYoung wanted to move his family to Belize. He then approached Grace Bible College about bringing students down there to teach them firsthand about culture and cultural intelligence. While Matt is living there on their farm with his wife, six kids, and three foster children, he’s now also teaching.

In fact, he’s converting some of his property into dorms for students and visiting professors. He calls Belize the perfect place to teach culture. Ten minutes from his house, he says he has friends who are Creole, Garifuna, Mayan, Mennonite and more.

One student who has already been there and back says, “There has never been a college course that has changed my perspective and taught me so much,” for immersing students in new cultures in order to teach them about those cultures, Matt DeYoung, Grace Bible College, and the students willing to go to Belize get today’s One Good Thing.

If you want to know more about the class being taught in Belize, you can read the following press release:

Cultural Intelligence has been a Buzz-Word in academia for a few years and it is just starting to go mainstream with the epicenter of cultural intelligence training right here in Michigan. A local college professor from Grace Bible College is creating the most unique approach to teaching students cultural intelligence and it all started with him driving his family of six and a dog from their home in Grand Rapids to the Cayo district of Belize in a converted school bus to start building relationships with the local community to truly expose students to people that are invested in the teaching of culture who understand what professor DeYoung is trying to do.

“We are all in” laughs professor Deyoung. We bought a farm, we are fostering 3 children and we are committed to building the most unique experience for college students. We want the trip to be authentic, safe and available for all students. That means buying a large property, converting it into dorms for students and a nice place for visiting friends and professors to stay.

We love Belize and think this is a unique way to draw students into Grace Bible College and to teach something I am very passionate about. Professor DeYoung fell in love with the idea of teaching culture because it has played such a dramatic role in his own life. His story involves worldwide travel, international adoption, fostering children from several different countries, living in Africa and now living in Belize. He believes cultural intelligence is essential to anyone in leadership. Cultural Intelligence allows you to better understand your people and use their creative way of seeing the world to solve problems and generate ideas.

Professor DeYoung describes Belize as “the perfect place to teach culture; Belize is a country of only 350,000 people but it is rich in culture. Within 10 minutes of my house I have friends who are Creole, Garifuna, Mayan, Mestizo and Mennonite. The fact that I live here and am invested in the community allows me to provide students with a unique experience that no tourist could ever receive. The other amazing thing about Belize is that there is no language barrier. The people speak English in every village throughout the country.

Matthew DeYoung has been a college professor for the last six years. De Young explains: “I think this trip says a lot about how special Grace Bible College is; Very few colleges or universities would have allowed me the freedom to follow this dream and build something this unique. When he approached Grace Bible College about moving to Belize and developing a trip that helped students develop their cultural intelligence they were amazingly supportive of the idea. Dr. Scott Shaw of Grace Bible College explains that the college supports him. Dr. Shaw went on the first trip, He explained. It was really a unique experience that will allow students to have a really unique, life-changing experience.”

Emma Summerfield is looking forward to going on one of the trips next year. “I have had classes with professor DeYoung the last 3 years. He genuinely loves students and is so passionate about this trip. Everyone on campus is talking about this trip, and how jealous we are of the pictures of students learning culture in tropical paradise.”

Abigail Bickler a senior from Grace Bible College just returned from the trip and explained that “there has never been a college course that has changed my perspective and taught me so much.” Matt has been my professor for the last 4 years. He has been a my business professor in several classes. Before he came to Grace we did not even offer a degree. Today I know that God called me to business and after taking his courses I know that I am prepared to be an incredible employee for any organization I get a chance to work for.

Professor DeYoung is also fulfilling his passion of creating jobs in developing nations. “I was a missionary in Africa with Grace Ministries International. They are an incredible organization, they taught me everything I know about the way respectful mission work needs to be done.” When we lived in Africa my entire focus was about business as a mission and giving people jobs so there would be less orphans and more opportunity for people. For the last 6 years Matt has been working for as the president and CEO of a franchise organization called Shine. They built their entire business around the Bible verse Matthew 5:16. Matt explains, “I got to watch men and women change their lives by starting a business, I got a chance to coach people through the process. I became more confident that I could coach business people in any size business. When Matt left Shine for Belize it was because he needed to take care of his family. They are adjusting to a new life after God healed his daughter after a 6 year battle with cancer, and because he knew that God had put a leadership team in place at Shine that was so devoted and incredible it was time to use his talents elsewhere.

The DeYoung family is now ready to take reservations for students and guests in Belize. To find out more please contact

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It wasn’t long ago we posted that Steve Sherman had finished two Swahili literature projects and today we are posting another update. Steve continues to work hard every day on his Swahili literature projects which are so needed in Tanzania and other countries where Swahili is spoken. He is using an office at Celebration Bible Church which was graciously given to him to use while the Shermans are here in the States.

Steve recently finished two more books bringing the total to 11 completed books. Planting New Churches is the product of Steve teaching a course at Tanzania Grace Bible Institute (TGBI) for many years. It lays out a 10-step plan for planting churches following the Pauline Cycle as shown in the book of Acts. It is an introduction to church planting designed to be used by a small group of churches to plant another church.

Women of the Good News – 10 Principles to Help Women Fulfill Their Christian Responsibilities was developed by GMI missionary Sue Vinton in the Congo. It teaches 10 biblical principles through the lives of 10 women in the Bible.

We praise the Lord that Steve has been able to produce these books during his time here in the U.S. and pray that they will soon be in the hands of those who can benefit the most by reading them.

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Tom and Michelle Sanchez left the States in January 2018 for Zambia to help the leadership of that country hoping to be able to raise the remainder of their financial support while they were overseas before they moved on to Bujumbura, Burundi. What you have below is an update from Tom and Michelle about their ministries and what they have accomplished in the months since they arrived in Kabwe. The picture above is of Tom at an Operation Mobilization sports training camp serving as the camp doctor.


Hi Team Burundi Partners,

Even as we write our greeting above, we are reminded that our time in Kabwe, Zambia, is short, and we are still looking forward to ministering in Bujumbura, Burundi. As we’re writing this, we’re headed to the airport to go back to the US to get ready for Samara and Phil’s wedding in the Portland, OR, area!  We’d like to share with you some of the work we’ve been involved in over the last few months.

We’ve been called on to help with pastoral ministry at Grace Church in downtown Kabwe where we’ve mentored and counseled Zambian church members and fellow missionaries, many of whom are in their first terms of mission experience. These young families are facing the challenges of raising their children while adapting to life and work in this part of Africa and they view us as veterans of mission life. We believe God has directed us in this opportunity to come alongside them to support and encourage these young families to serve Him in a foreign land.

Imagine a church where each week there is a different preacher, moderator, and one of five different worship teams who may be involved in leading the service. Now throw in the fact that you have about a dozen or so potential preachers and on the worship teams there are short-termers who help out for less than a year and like anywhere, people need to make trades and guest speakers show up that weren’t planned for. We also have the same problem we had in the US of hymns vs. modern choruses, and we can’t forget to add in a Bemba language song or two.

We prayed about where to start reorganizing the services and the Lord supplied a missionary who was an experienced worship leader and was prepared to tackle the job of combining several of the worship teams to reduce the groups from five to three. The larger worship team worked together for the first time during the Good Friday service. We may now have a team that can withstand the necessary comings and goings of its members. We believe the Lord is preparing the way for David and Hailey, the two GBC worship arts students, to have an impact while they are here in June and July.

The Good Friday service is something we put together and once a month we hold a “tea” at our home after the service so that members have a chance to fellowship before breaking up and heading for home. Some of the members are farmers who live relatively isolated lives during the week, so they need a time to get to know and stay in touch with other members. The tea is an important occasion for black Zambians to mingle with the mostly white African farmers and missionaries. We’ve been in dialogue with a potential new missionary family with pastoral experience who may be willing to take on overseeing this unique church after we leave.

Michelle has begun to work with Operation Mobilization and mentors Zambian elementary school teachers on the outskirts of Kabwe. The teachers are considered missionaries, and Michelle is assisting them to write their first-ever newsletters to their home churches. Seeking support and writing a newsletter is a new concept for the 17 teachers at the school. Michelle is hopeful that by coming alongside them she will help them get over the initial hump of sharing the ministry side of their work and giving examples of both struggles and successes.

We have obtained our work permits and driver’s licenses! It sometimes takes up to six months to procure both. We praise the Lord that this tedious, yet necessary step has been taken care of. Tom had to wait for his work visa/permit to come through in order to get placed at Kabwe General Hospital where he’ll volunteer part time in the outpatient department and nursing school. The nursing school’s academic year just ended and a new one should start in the next few months, so it is an opportune time to find where Tom can contribute to the education of Zambian nurses.

Please pray for unity during these times of transition. Bringing change is always difficult as people see the problems of where they are yet become fearful of what change might bring. May the Lord help us mobilize the early-adopters!

Thanks to all of you for your continued prayers and support! We are so grateful for each of you for holding us up in prayer!

Blessings and Love,

Tom & Michelle

P.S. Please see GMI’s Executive Director Jeremy Clark’s message below.


Having arrived in Zambia in mid-January, Tom and Michelle hit the ground running meeting with and discipling church leaders, thoroughly assessing our ministries and ministry partners, and encouraging local believers.Though they have been there for only two months, it feels like they have been there for years providing invaluable leadership on this field.

Looking ahead, here is the plan.Towards the end of this year, GMI would like for Tom and Michelle to move to Burundi to open GMI’s fourth new field in the past five years without having to return to the States to raise additional monthly support. To date they have half of the $4,619 in monthly support they need. Based on their currently monthly funding, they have enough funds to continue serving in Zambia for the better part of this year. However, they do not have enough to transition to Burundi without having to come back to the U.S. to raise additional funds.

To keep this effective, veteran missionary couple on the field, would consider increasing your monthly support if you are already giving or starting now to support the Sanchezes? You can give online to support Tom and Michelle’s ministry through GMI by clicking HERE.

Pressing towards the goal,

Jeremy Clark

GMI Executive Director

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