Thad & Monique Bergmeier | USA
Leroy Community Chapel, Leroy, OH
Thad started college as a pre-med major, but was surprised when he found his greatest fulfillment in serving at his church. “Over the course of six months, the Lord transitioned my heart. I found myself reading commentaries instead of reading my biology textbooks,” he recalls. He decided to pursue a degree in Pastoral Ministry at Moody Bible Institute.
The Lord placed a love for the church into Monique’s heart early in life. She longed for the day when she could go to college and learn from a new church family. That desire was fulfilled by a wonderful church where she was discipled and grew in her walk with the Lord. It was also where she met Thad.
They spent the next 18 years serving the church together with Thad as a pastor. About a year ago, they felt the Lord tugging on their hearts to change course. “It became really clear to us that the Lord wanted us to step away from our role as the pastor of the church and work on a larger scale with churches in North America,” Thad shared. “We’re excited to be part of the North America team to really help churches grow.”
Anthony Peña | USA
Fellowship Community Church, Mount Laurel, NJ
Anthony’s mother decided that because he lacked confidence, he should “go to church, a Christian school, and karate,” he said with a laugh. “I loved Jesus at a young age and I was baptized at the age of 12,” Anthony shared. But a few years later, things started to change when he began to live for himself and walk away from his Christian upbringing.
He was 18 when his high school went on a missions trip to Nicaragua. “It was in Nicaragua that God did an amazing work in my life,” Anthony said. “Everything I grew up kind of believing became a real thing for me. God became Lord over my life.”
But three months later, right before he went away to college, he watched a video that tried to disprove the existence of God. He felt so confused. Anthony started attending Campus Crusade for Christ at Slippery Rock University and confronted the questions he had about his faith. That ignited his passion for apologetics.
Two years ago, a friend asked Anthony if he wanted to be part of a church plant in an urban context. That friend was a missionary through ABWE. Anthony became a short-term missionary with ABWE and is now becoming a long-term missionary. “I’m excited to see what God does and continues to do over in Trenton, NJ and in this organization around the world,” Anthony said.
Global Access Partnerships (GAP)
GAP is a growing network of churches and ministries across the globe who commit their resources and efforts to advance the gospel in partnership together.
Jan & Ana Franka | GAP
Grace Baptist Church of Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Jan and Ana were both raised in Eastern Europe. Jan used to think, “Once I give my life to the Lord, He will send me somewhere that I don’t want to go or persuade me to do what I don’t want to do.” His heart changed though when an evangelist came through town in 1982. Something held him back at the service, but when he came home, his grandmother asked, “Do you want to give your life to Jesus?” He responded that night by praying for several hours and giving his life to the Lord.
Ana accepted Jesus when she was seven years old. She was deeply influenced by her grandfather, who, with no training or examples to look up to, went into missions. Among other endeavors, he became a Christian library on-foot, going door-to-door with a huge bag of books on his back.
In 2004, Jan and Ana moved to Canada to pastor a church there. “That was missions for us: a cross-cultural step, away from our friends, away from our home, in a foreign country,” Jan said. But now, the Lord has put it on both of their hearts to minister in a creative access country.
Sally Coppola | GAP
Lakeside Community Church, St.Clair Shores, MI
Sally was born and raised in the church. She said of her parents, “I was very blessed to be raised by this family of devout Baptist parents who were great representatives of Christ.” Sally’s father was a World War II veteran and a police officer, “so if you think I had rules…you would be very correct,” Sally shared with a laugh.
While Sally’s older siblings thrived in that environment, Sally saw it more as an opportunity to live outside the rules. After that season, she asked God, “‘What in the world are you going to do with me after all these poor decisions I made?’ And He made it quite clear, ‘You are going to teach students, because you know from experience and they will believe you and listen to you.’ And that was true.” Sally spent 37 years as a teacher and coach, ministering to the types of students who tended to fall through the cracks in the public school system.
When her son moved out of the house, she started praying for something to fill the void he left behind. She was surprised when that void was filled by a man she’d known since seventh grade, ABWE missionary Phil Coppola, who has spent the past 14 years serving in Cambodia. Phil and Sally were married last year and look forward to serving the Lord together wherever He chooses to lead them.
Matthew & Jennifer Johnson | GAP
First Baptist Church of Fowlerville, Fowlerville, MI
When Jennifer went to school to study nursing, she knew it was for a purpose. “I had in my mind that I could use my degree someday if the Lord ever led me to the mission field, but I didn’t know what that would look like.” A year later, she realized that God was calling her to missions, but not through nursing. A connection with friends led her to the New Tribes Bible Institute. “After almost four years of Bible and missions training and serving for a year in Papua, New Guinea, I was back at the Bible Institute in Michigan, serving on staff there.” It was then that she met her husband, Matthew.
Matthew’s father and grandfather were both Baptist pastors, and while today he is grateful for his upbringing, he initially struggled with life as a pastor’s kid. “Life as a PK had its ups and downs—probably more downs than ups—and by the time I finished high school, I wanted nothing to do with the ministry.” By the time he arrived at New Tribes Bible Institute, however, that had changed dramatically. In 2002, Matthew and Jennifer went through candidate seminar with ABWE and became missionaries in Spain.
They were just starting to build relationships and get settled in the community when Jennifer fell ill. It was recommended that they take a medical furlough and return to the United States.
“Those were hard days,” Matthew reflected sadly, “It was difficult not to ask God, ‘Why? What was the point in all of this?’” They clung to Psalm 18:30, “As for God, His way is perfect.”
While they were home in the US, Matthew served as a senior pastor and had great joy in that role. Their family expanded, adding two more children for a total of six, and now, they feel it’s time to go back to the field. “As we’ve served in our local church over the past decade, our passion for world evangelism has not waned,” Matthew said. “We’ve been asking God how we can be involved again more directly. God has answered our prayers and we’re looking forward to serving.”
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