Jerald & Katie Touchstone | Togo
MERIDIAN FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, MERIDIAN, ID
Jerald and Katie had a desire to do missions for most of their life together—it just took a while for the opportunity to serve overseas to come along.
In the meantime, God has been using them as missionaries where they’re at. Jerald has been teaching at a Christian high school for 13 years, ministering to the many seeking students whom he interacts with on a daily basis. Katie has been serving in AWANA at their church for just as long.
As a couple, they have also had opportunities to lead high school missions trips, and witness their fruit. Some of their youth have gone on to full-time missions, and even Jerald and Katie’s own children have developed a heart for missions.
Katie grew up in a Baptist missionary family serving in southern India. Jerald also came from a strong Christian family, although he said he lived a “mediocre Christian” life until his college years.
His first go at college only lasted three semesters before he dropped out and pursued auto mechanics. During his time as a mechanic, he went on his first missions trip—to Mexico—and had the experience of “helping someone who had really no chance of paying it back.”
Jerald decided to try college again after coming back from the trip, majoring in aquaculture with a minor in business. He had no idea what he was going to do with a degree in raising fish, though, and for several years after graduating he tried unsuccessfully to land a relevant job.
It was a lesson in patience, he said, because at the same time, God was growing him as a church leader, and preparing him for his next mission field in the high school science classroom. When their oldest went off to college, Jerald and Katie began exploring foreign missions again.
Last November, their pastor returned from Togo and told them about the open position with an aquaponics ministry—a position that Jerald was uniquely-qualified to fill with his degree and skills. After visiting the ministry last March, Jerald and Katie are eager to take on the task and see where God is leading them next.
Allen & Melissa Batts | Togo
FAIRVIEW LOOP BAPTIST CHURCH, WASILLA, AK
Melissa knew God was calling her to Africa as soon as she felt the wheels of the plane touch down, signifying the beginning of a missions trip to a South African orphanage during her sophomore year of college. “It felt like I was at home,” she said. “Like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I could breathe again.”
Allen and Melissa met in Alaska in 2012 through a blind date set up by Allen’s pastor and the wife of Melissa’s pastor—both good friends. While dating, the couple led several missions trips and served as leaders in their church’s college and career ministry. They married in 2014 and continued to pursue their shared calling to long-term missions.
Last year, God challenged them to be willing to give up anything and everything to follow Him. Life was going well for them. They were living what Allen called the “Christian American dream.” But the desire for that life diminished as they felt God pulling them toward a new phase of life.
What began as a church missions trip to Ghana to visit and encourage a group of missionaries suddenly became contacting ABWE about administrative needs at an orphanage in North Togo. During Melissa’s second pregnancy, God had placed adoption on their hearts. Now, they could feel God moving them beyond simply adopting.
“He challenged us: ‘You want to pursue international adoption for one baby. What about providing care for countless babies?’”
Their answer was yes. Yes they would give up anything, their jobs, their lives, their thriving ministry in Alaska, to serve at the orphanage in Togo.
“Our heart’s desire…is to share with those orphans the truth about their heavenly Father, and to mirror the gospel to them.
“To show them that they are wanted.”
Jack & Taylor Kehl | Togo
ALPINE BIBLE CHURCH, SUGARCREEK, OH
Both Jack and Taylor had the privilege of growing up in a gospel-centered home, and both were saved at a young age.
A missionary’s sermon on Matthew 9:37-38 deeply impacted Jack when he was 16, compelling him to completely surrender his life to missionary service. In college, at Cedarville University, God continued to affirm Jack’s calling to missions by leading him to a professor who was a retired missionary surgeon.
During his junior year, Jack went on his first medical missions trip to Peru. It was his first time witnessing the “remarkable effectiveness of compassionate healthcare as a tool for evangelism”, as modeled by Christ in the New Testament.
Taylor also attended Cedarville. There was no “key moment” of being called to missions for her, but she says God had been working throughout her life through missions experiences, tuning her heart towards complete submission and obedience to Him.
Jack and Taylor went on their first medical missions trip as a married couple to Ecuador in 2008. The trip was instrumental in opening Taylor’s eyes to the joy of serving Christ alongside her husband, and led her to surrender herself completely to God’s will, whatever that might be.
After nine years of medical training, they traveled to Togo in 2017 with their three young children to work at Hôpital Baptiste Biblique. During their time in Togo, they were burdened for the Muslim tribes near the hospital that did not have any gospel light.
“It is our hope and eager expectation that we will be able to share the gospel of Christ with the unreached in South Togo, [as well as] training and discipling Christian African physicians to become surgeons [and] leaders.”
Craig & Rene Brannan | South AfricaFirst Baptist Church, Ontario
At 16 years old, having gone through some challenging times in his family, Craig was far from God. Then God sovereignly intervened through a BMW missionary presenting the gospel. Craig accepted Christ as his Savior on March 4, 1982 and committed to serving God with his whole life. When he was 18, Craig met and started living with a ABWE missionary couple in Durban North, KwaZulu Natal, where he helped plant churches and also worked full time for a retail company.
Although Rene did not grow up in a Christian home, God orchestrated a number of events throughout Rene’s childhood that would lead her to the gospel, and she accepted Christ when she was 14. Shortly after giving her life to Christ, Rene also committed to going anywhere to serve him.
The two met at the ABWE church plant in Durban. Rene needed a ride to Bible college, and Craig wanted to be “obedient” to God and ensure she got there safe (“Thank you Jesus!”). Two years later, they were engaged.
But they both still had some maturing to do.
When Rene courageously broke off their engagement and the relationship, God used it as a catalyst event for Craig to pursue greater discipline in his life, digging deeper and more earnestly into the word. Nine months later, God put it on Rene’s heart to pursue Craig again. Together they vowed to serve God as disciple-makers anywhere He led them, and they were married.
They served with ABWE missionaries in South Africa for 15 years before God called them in 2000 to serve in Canada. Mid-2012, Craig and Rene began to feel God calling them back to South Africa. Through multiple visits over the next four years, God used them to equip African pastors in rural KwaZulu Natal with biblical and practical resources in education, with the counseling tools needed to model the gospel; and by teaching orphans and vulnerable children up to 25 years old to become disciplined, discerning self-sustaining stewards, training them to use their hands so that they will serve the next generation to do the same.
Craig and Rene are in the process of adopting a Canadian baby and hope to return to South Africa by January 2019.
David & Andrea Foster | Thailand
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF RICHLAND, RICHLAND, WA
At just six years old, David and Andrea’s daughter, Karen, started expressing her desire to be a missionary. That interest led their entire family—three at the time—to take part in short-term ministry in Thailand/Cambodia.
Already heavily involved with children’s ministry stateside, they felt God pulling them through that trip to pursue children’s ministry overseas. They could feel their hearts being led specifically to the great spiritual need they experienced in Southeast Asia.
David and Andrea grew up in very different situations. David was saved at a young age through a puppet ministry. His early salvation, he said, spared him from a lot of difficulties in situations he would face later in high school and in college.
Andrea was saved at a Good News club when she was eight, but she didn’t grow up with the same strong spiritual upbringing David had. Although she did not see much growth, she still felt the hope and assurance of her salvation. And it was this that literally saved her life when the situations she faced as a teen became too much for her to bear on her own. After she and David married, she recommitted her life to Christ, which is when she began to grow spiritually.
They served as AWANA leaders at their home church in Irvine, California and as members of the AWANA missionary’s advisory board for a time before relocating to David’s hometown in Richland, Washington. There they continued their work in children’s ministry.
Their call to ministry to Southeast Asia was confirmed in 2016, when they returned as a family to Thailand/Cambodia for a second trip, focusing on child and family prison ministry.
“We’ve realized that we have always been sheltered by the eternal security we have in Christ, and we’ve been surrounded by fellow believers,” David said. “The people of Southeast Asia, however, are largely without that hope.”
“We have been called to reach out to these people with the gospel, and to encourage and support the ministries and local Christians there.”
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