What brought us to missions
From an early age I learned about Christ’s sacrifice for my sins and I trusted Him for salvation. For a long time I didn’t realize Christianity went much deeper than that and so I struggled with having good intentions to please God, but finding myself helplessly inclined to sin. Eventually, I decided to stop letting people know I was a Christian, not because I was abandoning the faith, but because I didn’t want to make God look bad. By the time I graduated high school I longed to live with purpose, yet I felt disqualified for any Christian pursuits. I turned to spreading the gospel of good ol’ American freedom, which only left me penniless in Cuba. God brought me to a place where I was forced to depend on Him, and to my surprise, He provided for me both physically and spiritually. I had with me a study on Romans, and for the first time I began to understand God’s provision for me to be able to live for Him. A few months later I took a trip to Papua New Guinea where I saw firsthand how missions was carried out there. It challenged my preconceived notion that missionaries were super- Christians, and I realized that they were just normal people, depending on God. I no longer felt disqualified to live for God, rather I was eager to see how God could use me.
I grew up in a Christian home; my mom led me to the Lord at a young age, but my understanding of what that meant was very works-based. When I reached middle school, my family hit a rough patch, and I was convinced that Christianity was something people did on Sundays, to make themselves feel better about the rest of their week. Chapter two of my spiritual walk starts with God’s persistent, faithful pursuit of me; there was no event that prompted any decision. One Sunday I just chose to return to church. I went on a missions trip to Mexico and got to see firsthand God’s provision and response to prayer. It was the first time that God was real to me in a way that was visible and obvious. I decided to attend Bible School, thinking that since I was so aimless anyways, I might as well get some spiritual foundation before deciding where to go next. It was there that God really began to show me what it meant to have a relationship with Him.
Stacie and I met in Bible School and were married in October 2008. Just before beginning missionary training in Missouri we had our first son, Milo Benjamin (August 2010). To our surprise, another son came in the middle of our training, Owen Ryder (April 2012). Just after our Linguistics training we has Wyatt Rowe (December 2013). We look forward to raising our family on the field, and trust that He will give us the grace, patience, and strength to raise our kids to love and honor Him!
Stacie and I received Bible training at New Tribes Bible Institute (NTBI) in Waukesha, Wisconsin. NTBI is a two year school with its focus solely on Bible and ministry focused curriculum. After that we attended the New Tribes Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Roach, Missouri. The MTC is a three semester program with the goal of equipping students to minister cross-culturally in an animistic context. After graduating from the MTC, Stacie and I stayed on for one year to receive extra training in Linguistics. The Linguistics program includes one semester in Missouri in a classroom setting followed by a semester in Oklahoma practicing what we learned with Cherokee.
The Linguistics program trained us how to determine a language’s structure, from the sounds made in a language, to word order and grammar, all the way to telling a story or explaining a procedure. The purpose of this is to help our church planting team navigate some of the more difficult areas of the language we will be serving in, and to establish an alphabet for the Bible to be translated into.
Big Picture Vision
First, and most importantly, we want to see God glorified through our lives and ministry. The vision He has given us is one of not only sharing the Gospel with people in remote tribes, but to see a mature church established, with their own Bible translation and teachers. We would like to see this church functioning as a part of the Body long after we have left, even sending out missionaries of their own. This vision is one that we hope will catch on, that others will not only be excited about, but want to be part of it!
NTM is committed to ministering in the heart language of the tribal group. This may mean that years will pass before any Bible teaching begins, however, we are convinced that deep seated cultural beliefs cannot be addressed without being able to communicate clearly. NTM also uses a chronological approach to Bible teaching, which means we would begin our teaching in Genesis and follow the story of the Gospel through the crucifixion in order to give the death, burial, and resurrection its full context.
Papua New Guinea
What really drew us to PNG both the need and the incredible access of the Gospel. A conservative estimate would say there are over 400 languages without a single word from the Scriptures, and despite a politically favorable government, NTM has had to turn down requests from tribes for missionaries because of a lack of personnel. Missionaries are being trained from among the tribal churches, however, there are simply not enough to supply for all the needs. The door to PNG is wide open, there just aren’t enough people walking through it.