William & Diane | The Balkans
Crossroads Bible Church, Grand Rapids, MI
For a while, William, who accepted Jesus as an adult, had neutral feelings about missions. He thought that while there was a need for worldwide missions, American Christians should be investing their time and resources into needs that existed in their own backyards. “As it turns out, God is not really interested in my opinions about missional priorities,” William joked.
Diane grew up in a Christian home and a mission-minded church. “During my teen years,” she said, “I came to a place where I said, ‘yes’ to God, should He call me to foreign missions. Little did I know that 30 years later, He would.”
“While our two sons were still in high school, God began to chart a course for our lives,” William shared. They began taking classes to prepare themselves intellectually and culturally for their yet-to-be-revealed next chapter of life. In 2014, they were applying to become missionaries in Germany when they received a call from one of Diane’s cousins, who worked for ABWE. Her cousin asked if they would ever be interested in teaching overseas.
“We did a lot of praying,” Diane said, and soon, they were both very enthusiastic about joining ABWE’s efforts in the Balkan Peninsula. They’ve spent the past two years there as short-term missionaries. “When we look back at how God prepared us, we really do feel privileged to have had the opportunity to serve Him,” Diane said. “We want to serve Him wherever it is that He chooses to send us.”
Ethan | The Balkans
Southgate Baptist Church, Springfield, OH
Ethan grew up with a very keen awareness of missions work. His grandfather was a missionary to India and his father was born there. As a teenager, depression led Ethan to study theBible, and that study led him into a personal relationship with Jesus. When he was baptized, his pastor wanted to say, “Ethan wants to be a missionary, like his grandfather.” Ethan remembers, “I emphatically told him, ‘Don’t say that! That’s not true. I’m not going to be a missionary.’”
Ethan thought that after attending Cedarville University he’d get a job for the State Department, “where I’d get to sit in a little box and type emails to people and not actually have to see them or talk to them,” he joked. But then, after a missions trip to the Balkans with Cedarville, things slowly began to change. “I started to get a heart for people who had never really heard the gospel and never had much access to it at all,” he shared.
He had another opportunity to go back to the Balkans and his passion for the region began to grow, but he couldn’t imagine how he could be of help there. He unexpectedly ran into an ABWE missionary from the Balkans and decided to ask her a question. “I asked, ‘Could you use a history teacher? Because that’s really the only thing I know how to do.’” To his surprise, she answered, “Yes, and you’re the only person who has talked to me about that.” Ethan has been serving in that capacity for the past two years and is exploring what his long-term future could be in the area.
Arin O’Brien | Norway
Berean Baptist Church, Sciotoville, OH
Arin grew up on a farm in Missouri. She always thought she’d return to that life. “I was a farm girl; I loved the farm. I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll marry a farmer and build my dream house right here.’”
Arin’s sister, however, moved away from Missouri with her family to be missionaries in Jordan, and Arin spent three months there with them after graduating from Pensacola Christian College. She also went on a missions trip to Thailand during that time. Arin said, “God really used that in a great way to show me that missionaries are normal people. I think we get this idea that there’s this totem pole and missionaries are on the top, but that helped me to see that they’re just everyday people, serving God in different places.”
Arin’s now-husband, Nahum, was in the March 2015 class of ABWE missionaries and agreed to be sent to Norway.
“At a missions conference I met this great couple from Missouri serving in Jordan as missionaries,” Nahum said. “They went home and told Arin about this unbelievably handsome man...”
“So they actually came home and told me about this hillbilly from Ohio…” Arin teases. She had just finished her second year of teaching art at a Christian school in Missouri when her sister and brother-in-law came home and told her about Nahum. Soon after, Nahum and Arin were talking about marriage. “I knew very much that marrying Nahum meant moving to Norway. That was a big thing for me to get used to,” Arin shared. “I’m thankful that He’s been gracious to choose me to go and do something like this.”
David & Brandi Prairie | Moldova
Grace Baptist Church, Chattanooga, TN
Brandi and David met in high school at Tennessee Temple Academy and started dating in 11th grade. Brandi recalls, “I never wanted anything except to be a nurse and a wife and a mother. Missions was not in my mind at all. I love America and I was happy to stay here forever!” A few years ago, Brandi went on a missions trip to Norway—her first time out of the country. The trip helped her begin to consider what life could look like outside of the United States.
David serves as a youth pastor in a church with a rich connection to ABWE, and he was surprised when an ABWE missionary from their church mentioned something about his gifts working well in a cross-cultural setting. “I didn’t think too much about it,” David said. “I thought it was a nice thing to say, but it wasn’t directly on my radar yet.” Serving with ABWE hit his radar fully last fall when the opportunity to do some theological training in Eastern Europe while also leading the first-ever ABWE team there was brought to his attention.
David is finishing his doctoral program at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and looks forward to starting a new chapter in Moldova. “It’s still new for us to even consider something like this,” David remarked, “but we’re glad the Lord has drawn us in this direction and given us the same mind about it.”
Brandi agrees. “I feel like my role is going to be wife and mother wherever I go, and thankfully that’s a goal I can achieve anywhere in the world, but I’m also excited to see what God has for me to do alongside David in Moldova.”
Kristen Pearson | Ireland
East Valley Church, San Jose, CA
Kristen was a serious volleyball player, but when she was 14, she tore her ACL and needed surgery. She was put on heavy medications and it made her very depressed. “I decided there was nothing left to live for if I couldn’t play volleyball, so I decided to take my own life.” But on that particular night, her brother came home early. She decided she wanted to live for him.
A few months later, she went to a conference and heard Christine Caine talk about how Paul says we run the race to win the prize; we’re not just spectators as Christians. “Wow, the Bible talks about sports!” she thought, and she gave her life to Christ.
When Kristen was 15 she went on a missions trip to Mexico and knew that God had called her to serve as a missionary. When she was 19, she lost her best friend, who was not a believer, to cancer. “I thought, if I can’t reach my best friend, why would I do missions? So I completely ignored missions for about two years,” Kristen said.
A few years later, though, she ended up as a missionary in Tanzania for a year. But when she came home, God closed all the doors that would have allowed her to return there. She kept praying for the Lord to lead her to where she should go next. “I prayed for about five years about missions. I kept praying about Europe in general, and it became very clear that Ireland was where God was sending me,” Kristen shared.
Raise Clark | Hungary
Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, VA
Raise may only be 21 years old, but her passion for becoming a missionary has been growing almost her entire life. She knew from the moment she accepted Jesus as Savior at the tender age of five that He was calling her to be a missionary.
She began working towards her calling right away. “As I went through elementary, middle, and high school, I learned what it meant to be a missionary where you are, and not just, ‘Oh, I’m going to wait until I’m overseas,’ but I’m going to be a missionary where I am, today,” Raise shared.
As a student at Liberty University, Raise had the opportunity to go on a short-term trip to Hungary with ABWE. She spent five months getting to know the country, falling in love with its people, and starting to learn the language. It’s one of the hardest languages to master, but Raise notes, “I’m also learning Greek and Hebrew right now…so nothing can be more difficult than that!”
She’s not too worried about the potential barriers in front of her, though. “When we allow the Lord to take over, He can bless our tongues. He can bless our minds, no matter how old or how young we are.”
Joshua & Marie Ehlers | Czech Republic
Severns Valley Baptist Church, Elizabethtown, KY
Marie is originally from the Czech Republic and grew up in a Christian home there. It wasn’t until she was 16, though, that she truly came to know the Lord after attending a small church and being discipled by the pastor and his wife. When she was 18, Marie felt God calling her into missions and had the opportunity to go to London for two years as an evangelism intern. Then, a door opened to study music in Tennessee.
Josh grew up in a Lutheran household in the suburbs of Chicago. Though he had a thorough understanding of religion, he didn’t come into a real relationship with Jesus until he was a teenager. From the age of 14 to his early 20’s, Josh was discipled in a way that encouraged him to love the Word of God. He grew passionate about evangelism and went on a missions trip to the Czech Republic, where Marie was a translator for his morning English classes.
Josh attended Palm Beach University, where he earned a Bible degree, but he still didn’t feel ready to enter the mission field full-time, so he went to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and obtained a Master of Divinity degree.
Marie said, “The Lord has placed us in Kentucky, where we’ve been working with middle and high school students, but really, what’s been on our hearts has been the Czech Republic.” Josh added, “We both have acquired many skills while serving in student ministry and we feel ready to use those to plant churches in the Czech Republic.”
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