Written by Erin Kemper, GMI Social Media Specialist, and also an MK who has experienced what it’s like to be uprooted from life in the States and go with her family to a foreign field. Her parents, Mike and Terese Benton served under GMI in the Rukwa Valley of Tanzania for 13 years working especially with a children’s ministry in that area.
It feels like just yesterday, the day my parents sat us down on their bed to talk with us about the opportunity the Lord had led them to, to consider full-time missions in Tanzania with Grace Ministries International. At the time I was no more than 9 years old, though the vividness of that memory makes it seem like it could not have been 16 years ago. But it was.
As I think about that memory, GMI’s Vision 2023 comes to mind as I consider the families around this country who could be in the same position my family and I were in those 16 years ago. That is, if they should step out obediently in faith into whatever and wherever it is God is calling them. For me, God has called me to Stephens City, Virginia, to serve in the local church alongside my husband. For others, you are called to leave this country and go to a new country. My parents, for example, have served faithfully for the last 13 years as missionaries and would be the first to tell you that God can use anyone, any gifts, and any experiences He has provided to you if only you are willing. Because of God’s faithfulness through my parents, they have impacted so many lives for Christ. Another couple who has answered the call to cross-cultural, full-time missions is my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, John and Naomi Caprari. Since their acceptance as missionaries by the GMI board, they have become part of the progress being made under Vision 2023. Exciting things are happening with GMI!
Tanzania changed my life. I saw it change many lives as team after mission team would come through our doors. People would come to the country I called home one person, and leave another, molded a little more by God through their experience. Experiencing missions has a way of transforming hearts, opening minds, and changing perspectives in wonderful ways and in ways that I have never ever heard one person claim to regret…not one.
When missions first became something on my parents’ radar they had invited missionaries to stay with us during our church’s mission conferences each year. If missions is even slightly something you have thought about, I want to encourage you to invite missionaries into your homes. There will most likely be a missions conference at your church this year, this is a great opportunity you do not want to let slip by.
The next step my parents took was a short-term mission trip to the country of Tanzania. At first just my Dad was going to go but they realized that if God was truly calling them, then it was important they both go in order to see and experience what God may be calling them to and how they might be used. God was calling them as a couple, not just one of them. They left an 8, 6, 4, and 2 year old with relatives for two and a half weeks while they explored God’s calling in their lives. This trip changed them. Though the process looked different for each of them, in God’s perfect way, He led them to a decision together.
Whether God uses a short-term trip to call you to missions full time or to give you a burden for missionaries and become a stronger support system for them stateside…or if He even opens up your perspectives to the world around you and the work God is accomplishing all over the world, a short-term mission trip is something that I would highly recommend and ask you to consider. It was very difficult for my parents to leave 4 small children in America while they went to Africa, but it ended up being one of the biggest life-changing events for our family. What might be holding you back from going on a short-term trip?
People may say, “Can’t the money be used for something better?” or “I can’t leave my family or job for that long.” However, though at the time those things seem like a major issue, the Lord can use your presence in a new country and ministry in ways that He never would have been able to if you had not been willing to go. On a previous short-term trip that my husband, Zach, took to Tanzania they were doing door-to-door evangelism in the village of Ilemba and the pastor escorting Zach would introduce him and say, “This man came all the way from America because he has an important message about Jesus to share with you. Will you invite him in?” They always invited him in saying they were honored and yet bewildered that someone from America would leave all they have there to come be with them. You can’t put a price tag on the impact you can have on people’s lives in another country. Moreover, you can’t put a price tag on the impact God will have on your own life. The molding, bettering, serving, and cross-cultural experiences are all well worth the price paid, the vacation days lost, and the personal effort spent raising support for the trip. If God is calling you to this He will provide. I have no doubts of this.