By Paula Schlueter Ross
The Rev. Ken and Mildred Young of Chester, Ill., served as short-term missionaries in Chiayi, Taiwan, for two weeks last October, leading Bible classes for children and adults.
The Youngs, who are “young at heart” at ages 82 and 79, respectively, wanted to serve “because we know the Great Commission and the need for people to hear about and trust in Jesus,” said Ken.
On a previous visit to Taiwan in 2008, the couple visited a former exchange student who had stayed with them in the U.S. The student’s parents acted as tour guides, showing the Americans the highlights of their host country.
“As we visited temples, how sad it was to see people bringing food offerings and praying to all sorts of images,” Young said via email. “And we know that Jesus lived and died and rose also for them!
“It made clear the desperate need of people living without Jesus,” he said.
A highlight of their 2011 service was visiting 18 classes at a high school for girls, where “there were many opportunities for witnessing,” Young told Reporter.
“Once a girl asked me, ‘What is the most important thing in your life?’ In another class a girl asked, ‘What do you value most?’
“To each I answered simply ‘Jesus,’ and then explained.”
“Building relationships” and “living your faith” are two of the “most-needed” ways Christians can serve worldwide, says Erin Alter, who directs the GEO (Globally Engaged in Outreach) missionary program for the Synod’s Office of International Mission.
GEO missionaries typically serve a year or two, sharing their faith in endeavors such as teaching (English-as-a-foreign-language in schools and informal settings); agriculture; healthcare; computer technology; and any number of vocations.
Also needed are career missionaries, who receive formal calls for long-term service, and individuals and teams to serve short-term assignments of less than six months, such as what the Youngs did.
All GEO missionary and short-term opportunities are designed to benefit long-term mission efforts through local congregations and LCMS career missionary activities.
More than 200 global service opportunities are currently available, including:
- evangelist — two years in Cambodia.
- Mercy Medical Team members — seven to 10 days in Haiti, India, Kenya and Madagascar.
- home-school teacher — a year in Kyrgyzstan.
- short-term mission teams — seven days to two weeks in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Poland, Slovakia and Vietnam.
- website designer and database developer — one to four weeks in Hong Kong.
By far, the most opportunities to serve — more than 50 in 10 countries — are as “relationship builders” who witness their faith as they teach English-as-a-foreign-language.
Alissa Asmus, a 23-year-old from Sioux Falls, S.D., arrived in Macau in August to begin a one-year term as a GEO missionary, teaching English and “[using] that connection to bond with students, which leads to conversations about Christ and what He has done to save us.”
After five months, Asmus feels “a sense of belongingness and a sense that this is home now,” she told Reporter via email.
She said she loves “spending time with students and friends who are not Christian, and having those conversations centered around Christ.”
People she meets on the streets don’t seem to have much hope, she said, but she is anxious to share a message with them: “I have hope. I know that I am living for a purpose, and there is more to me than just money and things. I know the meaning of life: to serve God and let Him use us to expand His kingdom, and to be forgiven by the Father through Christ Jesus to one day join God in heaven!”
Another GEO missionary, Ginger Taff-Lagergren, 65, of Rochester, Minn., began her 18-month assignment Sept. 1 in South Africa.
Known as “Gogo Ginger” (“Grandma Ginger” in Zulu) among the children she serves at a preschool in the village of Ntshongweni, Taff-Lagergren is realizing a lifelong dream of becoming a missionary.
“My experience so far has been everything and more than I anticipated,” she said via email. And “each day brings new friends, adventures and challenges.”
God has prepared her, she said: “It’s by faith I am here. It’s through faith I can communicate [with] complete strangers without fear. Each day my faith continues to grow as God is so vivid and real in the mission work that has preceded me in Ntshongweni and the mission work that lies ahead. God will and does provide … And sharing my faith … is such a joy!”
Jennifer Prophete, placement counselor for those who serve from a week to six months, said there’s “never enough people to fill the needs” on the mission field.
“For example, in Poland last year, we sent six teams” to lead weeklong English Bible camps at Lutheran congregations. That “was wonderful,” Prophete said, “but we had 18 requests, so 12 churches were unable to hold an English camp.”
This year, she says she’s hoping for at least 10 teams to come forward, so if God is nudging you, she said, “consider it.” Since many mission opportunities are available in the summer months, she encouraged those who are interested in serving to complete an application by the end of May.
Added Alter: “If God is encouraging you to think about [mission service], talk with your pastor, spend some time praying about it, and give us a call if you have questions.”
To see a list of mission-service opportunities, visit www.lcms.org/searchopps.
If you have questions about long-term service (six months or longer), contact Alter at 314-996-1746 or email@example.com. For more information about short-term service, contact Prophete at 314-996-1311 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted Feb. 1, 2012/Updated Feb. 4, 2012