Kialie and Bradford grew up in inner-city Atlanta. He was a straight-A student, but Kialie’s ADHD made school difficult. During their freshman year of high school, they bonded over two things: basketball and the gospel. They met at a local church’s Family Life Center, which hosted a community basketball league. Soon, Bradford and Kialie were spending all the time they could at either the church or the church gym, being coached by the pastor.
One evening, Kialie came home with her eyes shining and told her parents about a man named Christ who called her fearfully and wonderfully made. In the months to follow, her parents were astounded as their shy, insecure daughter blossomed into a confident young woman who befriended everyone she met, including Bradford. He liked Kialie, but he liked the change he saw in her more. So, after church one Sunday, he took the pastor aside and told him he was tired of pretending to be perfect. He was tired of performing for his teachers, his friends, and his parents, and he wanted to know if this Jesus could possibly love him as he was.
Kialie and Bradford were baptized on the same Sunday, and the day after graduation, Bradford proposed. They married and started college, but halfway through their kinesiology degrees, Kialie began to wonder if Atlanta was really the place they were called to live. And so, after many late-night talks and fervent prayers, the same pastor who coached them and baptized them led their church in prayer over them on their last Sunday in America. Today their gym is outdoors, and they call plays in a different language, but the sports outreach program they lead is just like the one where they met Christ in high school.
Ben and Amanda were just easing into the final stretch of the American Dream when their plans took a sharp detour. Amanda had been retired for about a year from her job as a literature professor when Ben announced he was retiring from the pastorate. That very Sunday, Amanda sat him down and said, “Honey, neither of us is going to be any good at being retired. We’ve got to find something to do!” With their son teaching in Boston and their daughter and grandchildren living in Phoenix, Oklahoma City just wasn’t home anymore. They looked into new hobbies and even considered buying an RV, but nothing seemed to pique their interest.
Then Amanda ran across a documentary on women’s education around the world. She learned how essential female education is to community health and how many women in developing countries still lack access to basic education. Meanwhile, Ben met a Colombian pastor at a local coffeehouse and ended up spending a solid hour “talking shop” with his fellow minister. Ben was astounded to hear how many pastors around the world have next to no theological training and must make do with just a few pages of Scripture and their own intuition.
That evening over dinner, he fidgeted nervously with the tablecloth as he told Amanda, “Love, I think I want to move overseas and teach.” She leaped up immediately, clapping her hands and squealing, “That’s what I want to do, too!” They now live oceans away from Oklahoma City, teaching language and business skills to women in the city and trekking into rural areas to lead indigenous pastors in theological training.
Diego may not have been the smartest kid in his high school, but he was unquestionably the most determined. He graduated valedictorian with a solid 4.0, thirty college credit hours, a hefty scholarship, and absolutely no idea what he wanted to do with his life. With virtually all his basic courses out of the way, he was out of time to pick a major and beginning to panic fast when his uncle started reminiscing about his time as an exchange student in Madrid.
The more his uncle talked, the more interested Diego became. He was already bilingual. He could enter a community college in another country, gain some intercultural experience, and learn a third language while he was at it. His only memories overseas were from mission trips, though, so he called his pastor that evening at his wit’s end on how to pursue the idea. But his pastor immediately veered off in a strange direction, chattering about the international missionary team their church supports and their work near a university in their area.
“Pastor, pastor!” Diego finally interjected, “I’m not asking about being a missionary. I want to be an exchange student.”
“Oh,” his pastor said, “Did I not make that clear? You can be both.”
Six months later, Diego has settled comfortably into his new dorm room a continent away from home. He meets weekly with his home church’s missionary team to help plan outreaches and discipleship training, but his favorite part of his “job” is just getting to make friends with the students at his school. Word has spread quickly around the small campus that the odd-looking foreigner with the thick accent is excellent at soccer, happy to tutor in English, and has incredible stories about a man named Jesus.
The Nike Swoosh. A white apple missing a bite. Three simple circles that, when joined together, became the foundation for the “happiest place on earth.” Bekah was enthralled by the idea that such simple imagery could become so culturally iconic and drive brands, even entire industries. She began to study graphic design—actually she ate, drank, slept, and breathed design. She quickly earned an internship with a local ad agency and began drumming up other work as a side hustle.
Bekah loved the work, but she also loved the freedom it offered. All that was required was her laptop and a WiFi connection. She could work from almost anywhere in the world. With that in mind, she began to explore options with her pastor to take advantage of her freedom and engage in missions. She was able to go on a couple of mission trips to a faraway city where her church had sent missionaries. She worked with them for a few months at a time and kept up her graphic design work. While there, Bekah became a student of the Hindu culture, formed relationships with locals, and even figured out that she was a natural for language learning.
Bekah will soon transition full time to that city and join the missionary team on the ground. She’ll continue to build her graphic design business, use her design skills to the serve the needs of the team, and pick up the relationships she pursued during the mission trips, now as a fully engaged member of the missionary team.
Timothy has been helping plant churches since he could walk. His father was pastoring a months-old house church in Los Angeles when he was born, and Tim grew up serving alongside his parents and older siblings, from passing offering plates as a preschooler to leading VBS as a teenager to teaching basic exegesis to his fellow students in college.
Over the years, he saw his father’s young congregation flourish steadily into an established church, and he grew restless. As he finished his last semester of seminary, he found himself looking wistfully back on the early days of their church—the late-night discipleship sessions, the neighborhood evangelism, the raw and messy joy of Sunday worship in a rented gym. The harvest was coming in, but Tim missed the days of planting. When the church’s missions committee approached him with the idea of moving to the Middle East to lead a missionary team, he couldn’t say yes fast enough.
Church planting in his new Muslim context isn’t easy. Even the curious and tender-hearted take years to come to faith, and some take even longer to tell their friends and family. Persecution is present and painful, and the days of an established church in his city are still far off. But Tim wouldn’t move back home for all the money in the world. He and his team are right where they want to be, bringing the gospel to those who’ve never heard and laying a biblical foundation that other Christians will build on for generations to come.
She’d loved her years as a teacher in a multicultural charter school, but Nohemi was ready for something different. She’d come to faith a few years ago and could not escape the idea that the Great Commission was meant for her. She was ready to go. The undergraduate degree she’d earned in international education and her ESL certification had only been used to volunteer with a local refugee relocation ministry. So, with her resignation letter already typed, she started combing online job boards for ESL work.
She’d half-heartedly applied to a couple community colleges and a part-time position when she stumbled on an article about indigenous communities in the Amazon. The article said that as urban centers grow and more rural families uproot to the cities for work, many of these communities struggle to find good work on account of the language barrier. Most can’t afford English language classes, and NGOs in the area lack ESL-trained personnel who can teach English to students who don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese. Nohemi was already fluent in Spanish, and her ESL training had prepared her to teach English to native speakers of any language.
Her heart raced as she began cross-referencing the indigenous languages listed on the NGO’s website with the ones described in a missionary database. Within minutes, she confirmed that many of the communities served by this NGO had little, if any, gospel access. Most had never heard the name of Jesus spoken in their language.
Smiling and humming to herself, Nohemi printed her two weeks’ notice, found the NGO’s job list page, and clicked “APPLY.”
Apart from the influence of Luke 4:16–21, Stacey would never have become a nurse. It was in her third grade Sunday school class that she first read Jesus of Nazareth’s announcement, “He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,” and she immediately knew that was exactly what she wanted to do. She became well known in her hospital for her gentle spirit and quiet determination to provide patients with whatever they needed, be it glucose or a good laugh. She’d always seen her patients as her mission field, so when the opportunity arose to take her work overseas, it just seemed like the natural next step. Jesus came to bring healing to the body and soul, Stacey she took the language courses she needed and boarded a plane to go do the same.
Now, the battered but plucky van that serves as her mobile clinic is a welcome and familiar sight among the rural villages she serves. Families in her city regularly arrive at the hospital asking for “the tall American nurse,” and she is able to make house calls throughout the community on her sturdy mountain bike. Wherever she goes, lives are saved for now and eternity.
Mike did not care for college. School had never been his thing. College wasn’t the place for him, much less seminary, so the idea of the traditional missionary path was simply not an option. It was a blow for him and his wife, Carey, both of whom had dreamed of serving on the mission field since they’d first started dating. As the possibility of seminary faded, that dream seemed to slip away.
But they didn’t stagnate. Over the next decade, Mike turned his passion for working with his hands into a successful auto mechanic shop. He and Carey welcomed a set of twins into the world, and Carey began homeschooling them. They remained active in their church and went on as many short-term mission trips as they could afford. It was on one of these trips that the missionary team leader took Mike aside and asked if he’d be willing to relocate to a South Asian megacity permanently.
Mike hung his head, mumbling about his lack of education. “We’ve got seminarians, Mike,” the team leader said. “What we need is a mechanic.”
He explained that a local bi-vocational pastor had a thriving mechanic business but was looking for someone to take over management of a few new locations on the other side of the city. What’s more, their missionary team’s pair of aging vans had broken down on the way to the village no less than half a dozen times in the past year. The team needed someone who could manage a shop and overhaul an engine, as well as share the gospel.
The minute Mike explained the idea to her, Carey burst into tears. Their dream, so long deferred, was going to come true.
It took Monique an extra three years to complete her degree in architecture. So when the work began to bore her after just four years, she started to panic. With her two kids just starting school, she also couldn’t help feeling resentful as the endless stream of suburban blueprints slowly ate away at the limited time she had with her young family.
One night her husband showed her a video he’d found online. Her heart quickened as the narrator described how a think tank in Asia was helping find creative solutions to overcrowding in rapidly growing megacities. She found their website and began poring over their samples—designs more intricate and innovative than anything she’d seen in American architecture. She read story after story of struggling communities that had been transformed by these ideas. But after weeks of searching, she couldn’t find a single company doing similar work in the United States. “This is hopeless,” she finally said to her husband, “the only way I’m ever going to get to do this is if we move to Asia.”
“Okay,” he said.
“Okay. Let’s move to Asia.”
It took nearly a year of planning alongside their local church, but now Monique and her family are happily installed in a micro-home in Asia and working as a part of a missionary team there. His event-planning business is beginning to take off, and she is able to do the work she loves directly from home. People often ask why Monique would give up a high-paying job to help build homes for the impoverished, and she is quick to tell them about the One who was sent to proclaim good news to the poor (Luke 4:18–19).