Missionary Profile: Gary Wagner

Gary-Wagner-portrait-web-214x300American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) ministers as the caring heart, serving hands, going feet, and prophetic voice of Jesus Christ—establishing ministries of discipleship, community, and justice along with equipping and networking followers of Jesus to transform persons, congregations, neighborhoods, and cultures throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.  Therefore, because February is the month for the America for Christ Offering, we’re featuring a person involved with Home Missions.

Rev. Gary Wagner has served as President of Rainbow Acres since March of 1996.  Under his leadership, it has grown into a “state of the art” residential facility and educational community serving adults with developmental disabilities.  Rainbow Acres was founded in 1974 by Ralph Showers.  It’s an American Baptist Churches USA-affiliated 50-acre ranch-style community in Camp Verde, Arizona.  Anticipating the occasion of its 40th anniversary, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) gifted Rainbow Acres with $40,000 this past summer.  Rainbow Acres offers holistic programs, vocational training, and enrichment programs for differently-abled adults.  Nearly 100 adults, referred to as Ranchers, presently live at Rainbow Acres.

Gary has over 35 years’ experience in public relations, marketing and fundraising for higher education at Phillips University in Oklahoma, Alderson Broaddus College in West Virginia, the American Baptist Assembly in Wisconsin, Bacone College in Oklahoma, the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota, and Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School in New York.

Please pray for Gary and all of the “Ranchers” at Rainbow Acres.  Thank you!

Missionary Profile: Becky & Mike Mann

mannMike and Becky Mann serve in Thailand.  They live with their family in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Becky has been working with the Hmong, Lahu, Lisu, and Karen tribal women by helping with craft ideas, developing patterns, and marketing crafts.  She also helps tribal farmers.  She is committed to helping the Integrated Tribal Development Program, which her husband Mike leads, with the marketing of Thai coffee, and working with parents of special needs children.

Mike is a global consultant for rural development for American Baptist International Ministries.  He serves as Director of the Integrated Tribal Development Program (ITDP), through which he ministers among the hill tribes of northern Thailand.

For years, the people in the hill tribes of Northern Thailand were gripped in poverty, eking out a meager and uncertain existence through opium farming, selling children into prostitution and committing crimes.  Things started to change after 1990, with the founding of the Integrated Tribal Development Program (ITDP).  Since then, the hill tribes have witnessed significant improvements in their lives: better access to health care and education, improved water resources and sanitation, and greater economic stability through the production, processing and marketing of cash crops—especially coffee.  Worldwide coffee giant Starbucks is among the major buyers.  In May 2013, Starbucks opened its first community store outside of the U.S in affluent central Bangkok—and pledged that 10 percent of sales from the store’s beverages would be invested in the farming communities in Northern Thailand.

As you pray for Mike and Becky, pray for the ministry of ITDP and the hill tribe people that it serves.  Pray that the funds donated by Starbucks would be used wisely and effectively to promote lasting community development. Pray also for their family.  Thank you!

Missionary Profile: Mario Morales

morales 01As a regional missionary for Iberoamerica and the Caribbean, Mario strategically works in community and sustainable development by identifying, equipping and empowering, Christ-like compassionate leaders to will minister to the victims of destitution, suffering and oppression in their local churches and communities.  Using a model of a multifaceted integral mission ministry, Mario also uses virtual systems and e-learning platforms to teach courses in self-sustainability, religion-culture and eclessio-missiology.  Mario says:

“My ministry has been characterized by interaction with the oppressed and marginalized.  I have found that it is not enough to provide material goods; they must rediscover their value as human beings made in the image of God, empowered to resist oppression and bring good news to the oppressors.  One way to do this is through the building of a house.

“The project focuses on creativity and sustainability.  We equip each house with a solar energy system, a water filtration system and a hydroponic garden.  The homeowners help with the construction, sculpting each wall out of cob—a mixture of soil, sand and straw—with their bare hands.  During the two-week building process, participants often experience internal transformations of empowerment, as they creatively construct structures that will provide not only shelter, but self-sufficiency.”

Missionary Profile: Sandy Schoeninger (retired)

SchoeningerThis month we take a brief look into the life of another retired missionary: Sandy Schoeninger, who served in Kodiakanal, India.  She now serves International Ministries at headquarters in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, as a volunteer special assistant in Mission Finance.  She files or shreds papers as required.  She folds and mails receipts for check or credit card gifts.  She also does other clerical work for the person who does the gift entry.

During the summers, Sandy volunteers at American Baptist Assembly/Green Lake Conference Center at Green Lake, serving at the quaint Padelford Country Store in the campground area.  It features an inviting front porch with a glider.  Guests go to the store to purchase camping supplies, firewood, some grocery items, snacks, ice cream treats, and gift items.  Children love to purchase penny candy there!

Although the store is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Sandy’s time at Green Lake begins earlier and ends later, allowing her to do necessary preparations at the store before opening and to get it closed up at the end of the season.

As you pray for missionaries, please pray for retired ones, such as Sandy, who continue to serve God in various ways.  Thank you.

Missionary Journal: Roberta Stephens (Japan)

After 25 days visiting the various places and people who occupied my attention at various times during the 27+ years of my residence, I must now return to Yokohama and finish up the ministry that God has given me there.

I revisited Morigo Christian campsite and participated in a seminar for its earthquake recovery and future plans.

I pray that American Baptists can continue their participation in this camp, because it was you who built it.  I heard and saw how One Great Hour of Sharing funds were continuing to be used in many places.

Roberta Stephens

Missionary Profile: Wendy Bernhard (retired)

Rev. Wendy Bernhard in Chapel Car Grace at the Green Lake Conference Center

What do missionaries do after retirement?  Many continue serving God in various ways.  Rev. Wendy Bernhard retired in 2013 after 30 years as an American Baptist missionary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, working in theological education and youth ministries.

She lives in Elko, Nevada, where she is a member of Greater Life Church.  In retirement she is leading a book discussion group on Narnia for Adults at Great Basin College in Elko, and is active in Toastmasters, a bowling league, and the local senior citizens center.  Last year she visited churches in ten states to thank them for their faithful support of her career in the Congo and encourage them to transfer their support to other ABC missionaries.  She continues to speak in churches as requested, and would love to speak to us at Memorial Baptist some summer.

As a member of the International Ministries Board of Directors, Wendy looks forward to internationalizing her call to global missions. “I want to learn more about the work of our missionaries and partners in every country, and work with them to attain the goal of discipling the nations in a holistic way,” she says.

Wendy is spending the summer of 2014 as a volunteer at American Baptist Assembly, Green Lake.  She works as a docent at Chapel Car Grace, telling its wonderful story to all who visit it.  She is also a member of the Spurgeon Chapel team, becoming involved with visitors as needed.  In addition, she leads many of the weekly Bible study sessions for volunteers.  During the huge World Mission Conference at Green Lake in July, Wendy was the French translator.

Please pray for Wendy as she continues serving in the capacities indicated, and follows God’s call to serve in various other ways.  Thank you!

Missionary Profile: Kyle and Katrina Williams

williamsKyle and Katrina Williams from Everett, Washington, have been endorsed to serve in partnership with the Baptist Community of Congo at the Pastoral Institute of Kikongo.  They will assist with the training of pastors.

Together they have worked summers at a family commercial fishing site in Alaska and are homeschooling their four children.

While there are many here in the States with a high level of education, there are few willing to root themselves in places like the Congo interior, where teaching is limited and people have to travel many miles to attend church and can’t simply turn on their internet to search out interpretations of biblical text.  The village pastor and those they teach benefit greatly from inductive Bible study and the revelation that Christ is the lens through which all scripture should be evaluated.  Sometimes the Bible is not as straightforward as we are taught.  Sometimes stating this is all people need to gain a little humility when teaching others.

Pray for Kyle and Katrina and their four children as they transition to full time missionary service.  Pray for them as they seek to partner with groups, congregations and individuals for the relational, prayer and financial support they will need for them to carry out their ministry.

Missionary Profile: Debby & Kyle Witmer

Debby and Kyle Witmer from Springville, Indiana, have been endorsed by American Baptist International Ministries (IM) to serve in Thailand with IM’s partner, the Thailand Karen Baptist Convention (TKBC) at the Siloam Bible Institute in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  The couple will work in pastoral education and leadership. Kyle will also do continuing education with TKBC pastors and evangelists.

Kyle currently serves as pastor of Avoca Baptist Church in Avoca, Indiana, where Debby also serves as worship leader and head of the missions committee. Their church is excited about partnering with them in this new area of ministry. Kyle and Debby home school their four children, Hannah (16), Brennan (12), Julia (10) and Emma (7), who will be serving with their parents in Thailand.

Pray for Kyle and Debby and their children as they begin the transition to full time missionary service.  Pray for them as they seek to partner with groups, congregations and individuals for the relational, prayer and financial support they will need for them to carry out their ministry.

Missionary Profile

riceDr. Tim and Kathy Rice have been endorsed to serve as medical missionaries at the Vanga Evangelical Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo (not to be confused with the neighboring Republic of Congo), where they will part of the Congo Health Connection Team.

The Rices and their mission partners, Ryan and Sharon Potter, will attend French language school beginning in August, after which they will move to Vanga, DRC.

Health encompasses not just physical well-being, but mental, emotional, spiritual and relational well-being, as well.  When one person is unwell, their whole family and community are affected.

A ministry of healing goes hand-in-hand with proclaiming the Gospel; in Luke, Jesus sent his disciples out to “preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:2).  Throughout scripture, we see God’s particular concern for the marginalized, as well: the poor, the widows, the orphans and the aliens.  As followers of Christ, we are called to do likewise.

Congo Health Connection is all about relationships.  They connect the sick with health resources, medication and education that can relieve suffering.  They also connect students at the Vanga Health Training Center with visiting faculty from abroad, and connect American mission-minded medical residents and students, nursing students and therapy students with Congolese colleagues for a rich exchange of ideas.

Please pray for the Rices as they prepare to serve in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Missionary Profile

jones 01Pray for Cheryl Jones, newly endorsed to serve as an International Ministries missionary to South Africa.

Rev. Cheryl Jones is a former IM missionary (2001 – 2005) who is being reinstated to serve as a theological educator at the Baptist Convention College in South Africa. Since 2005, Cheryl has continued living and serving as a missionary in South Africa supported by her church, the Cathedral International (Second Baptist) Church of Perth Amboy, NJ. She is looking forward to returning to South Africa to continue ministry under appointment with International Ministries.

While I was unable to find out any further information about the current status of Cheryl and Andile God knows every need of His children.  Please lift these missionaries up in prayer asking God to care and provide for them as they carry out His works in South Africa.

In His Service,

Carol M. Cross