Home World Missions More of a Lifestyle, Less of a Job (Part One)

More of a Lifestyle, Less of a Job (Part One)

by Michael Ireland

WILLS POINT, TEXAS (ANS) — Before becoming behind-the-scenes missionaries at Gospel For Asia, Jonathan and his wife, Erica, lived fairly normal, routine lives: Jonathan had worked at the same job since he graduated college; the couple had lived in the same home for 16 years; and they had been involved in the same church for 12 years.

When the eldest of their four daughters was 4 years old, they welcomed GFA-supported Bridge of Hope children and missionaries into their lives through prayer and sponsorship. Jonathan and Erica wanted their children to grow up understanding the needs of others.

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Ever since their four beautiful daughters were young, Jonathan and Erica have led their family in pursuit of serving the Lord together, according to the ministry.

“They were familiar with the idea,” Jonathan says, “that there are people outside of [their] own little world who have a totally different set of challenges, and people who don’t know about Christ.”

Pastor Marty and his family and Jonathan and his family

Gospel For Asia says this worldview found its way into their family’s everyday life and holidays, shaping rich family traditions. When the Christmas season came around each year, their daughters would pour over the pages of GFA’s Christmas Gift Catalog, flipping through the pages filled with pictures of chickens, goats, Bibles and blankets. Their house stirred with excitement as each bright-eyed girl got to choose an item to bless a person or family in Asia.

Half a world away, GFA-supported workers like Marty would later deliver these gifts to the people in their communities who desperately needed help. Together with many others in the Body of Christ, they were seeing lives transformed through Christ’s love.

When Hannah, the oldest daughter of Jonathan and Erica, was 4, the family began supporting GFA. It became a favorite family tradition to go through the Christmas catalog together every winter to pick out gifts for needy people in Asia.

A Change in the Norm

Eventually, the Lord entrusted Jonathan and his family with another opportunity to serve Him and the people around them in a deeper way: starting a small fellowship in their home.

Gospel For Asia says that through the years, Jonathan and Erica watched as God blessed their fellowship. Missions was in all of their hearts, and the fellowship provided the funds needed for a church building in Asia and sponsored and prayed for GFA-supported national missionaries. But as time went on, God slowly began to change the course of this fellowship.

“The [fellowship] had always been kind of a stopover point,” Erica says. “A lot of people were there for about a year. It was like it was a respite, sort of a hospital, maybe spiritually speaking.”

This similar pattern lasted for several years, the ministry said. People would come to the fellowship and then go, but the Lord always brought another family or individual to fill the empty seats. As faces and seasons changed, missions began to burn on Jonathan and Erica’s hearts more and more. During these months, they watched as God relocated families and drew people out of their fellowship and to the local churches. Meanwhile, the empty seats left behind stopped being filled.

“Now we can see,” Erica says, “that He was shutting it down so we were free to go.”

The One God Chose

As the Lord continued to press missions on Jonathan’s heart, a revelation struck him: Why not serve in the place where they had already been investing for the past nine years?

“It wasn’t that we chose GFA because we thought it was the most prestigious, or because we thought it would be the best place for our family, or the easiest place, or the most fun, or the most spiritual, or any of those things,” Jonathan says. “We’re here, and we remain here, because this is the one God chose.”

After raising monthly support for their livelihood, Jonathan and his family packed up their home and moved to Texas to join GFA’s staff as behind-the-scenes missionaries. They were ready to serve the Lord together once again and in an even greater capacity.

As missions continued to burden Jonathan and Erica’s hearts, the Lord called their family to serve in the place where they had already been invested for years. After much prayer and seeking the Lord, they moved to Texas to serve as behind-the-scenes missionaries in Wills Point, Texas, at GFA.

A Beautiful Link Between Two Worlds

With passion and excitement, Jonathan started serving in the IT department at the GFA office in Wills Point, Texas. Through his work, he was able to equip his fellow behind-the-scenes missionaries with the computer systems they needed to accomplish their jobs in helping missionaries in Asia, like Pastor Marty.

Gospel For Asia says that as Jonathan worked with software updates, Pastor Marty prayed for widows struggling to make ends meet in their small huts deep in the slums. As Jonathan prepared for meetings with vendors, national workers prepared Sunday messages for their growing congregations. As Jonathan helped equip the Texas office with the systems needed to communicate with donors and sponsors, Pastor Marty and many other GFA-supported workers talked with broken families about the love of Jesus. With Jonathan and the other behind-the-scenes missionaries doing their part in their work, Pastor Marty and fellow ministry workers could more effectively do their part.

Much the Same, yet So Different

Jonathan knew his work was important, but he quickly began to realize that working for a ministry was no simple task, and at times it was strangely not unlike working for a company in the secular world. Within the office, he still experienced problems with computer software and challenges in working alongside others whose personalities clashed at times.

“It turns out,” Jonathan says, “all the same problems you encounter in the business world, you typically are going to encounter in the ministry world, too.”

Although Jonathan worked with people and computers as he had in his secular job, the differences of working in a ministry impacted his walk with the Lord. Whereas before he never thought to pray for a broken computer server or start a meeting in prayer, he now found himself doing these very things.

Once, when Jonathan had broken the entire office’s email system, it disabled the behind-the-scenes missionaries for several hours. To his amazement, Jonathan didn’t receive the same kind of treatment he would have experienced in the business world, with his bosses telling him how much money and time he was wasting. Instead, people stopped by his office to encourage and reassure him that they were praying for him. When Jonathan finally got the system working again, a slew of emails filled his inbox. They were from folks around the office thanking him for all his hard work on getting the problem fixed.

According to the ministry, it was this kind of grace that Jonathan had never experienced before, and it occurred to him that the GFA office had a completely different atmosphere. Instead of pressures to do everything correctly the first time, there was love and grace shown by his coworkers. Instead of stress, there was peace as problems were brought to the Lord in prayer.

“I realized I am in a different world here,” Jonathan says. “Everything matters so much more, but mistakes are handled with so much more grace. And both are tied to the heart and the attitude behind it.”

The author of this story, Michael Ireland, is a self-supported media missionary with ANS. Click here to support him as a missionary journalist. 

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