by Various authors
In this section, we honor seventeen individuals for their faithfulness in ministry.
Editor’s Note: EMQ wants to honor some of the ‘unsung heroes’ among us and we created our EMQ Unsung Hero Award to do just that. Nominations were sent in from many parts of the world. In this section, we want to honor seventeen of these individuals for their faithfulness in ministry. None would call themselves a ‘hero,’ but we are privileged to honor them and, through their stories, to inspire each of us to remain steadfast and committed to God’s call upon our lives. The bios below contain summarized facts and comments given from those who nominated each individual.
25+ years of service in The Republic of Congo
Sarah serves in the Pioneer Christian Hospital. The first time I met her was in 2013. One morning, she asked me if I want to go with her and visit her friends. Of course, I went with her. We ended up visiting two paralytics, lepers in an abandoned government hospital, pygmies who live in extreme poverty in the jungle, and I also watched Sarah help build mud houses for the poor. These are her friends! Every single penny she has, she would give to help these people. She would even take the pygmies into her house, which no other missionaries would do. She models Jesus’ kind of servanthood: meek and humble; at the same time, she shares the love of Jesus with each of her friends in a very concrete way.”
Ruba Shafik Al-Rehani
21 years of service in the Middle East/North Africa Region
Wife, radio broadcaster, founder of ministry to women
Ruba began serving as a pastor’s wife in northern Jordan. Five years later, she founded the ministry of Arab Woman Today, which effectively engages the community through social development and the church. Her first ministry to unreached women was through a radio program which sought to tackle women’s challenges, to be a voice for the voiceless, and to give hope to Arab women with wounded hearts and no knowledge of their value in the eyes of God. Working side-by-side with the radio program, the on-ground ministry focused on reaching Arab, Christian women who served on the field in frontline ministry. Ruba’s vision was ‘to see every Arab Woman reconciled with herself, with God, and with her respective society.’
As a result, together they started to build a program using seminars, workshops, conferences, and printed material aimed at empowering Arab women who are serving and leading various ministries and congregations in support of their husbands. God allowed this vision to extend via technology to Arab women residing in multiple countries throughout the region such as Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco, Sweden, France, and Algeria. The entire endeavor was very successful because she built a network and provided a platform (online, radio, TV, and in groups) for women leaders to share and learn from each other. Ruba exhibited the highest level of Christian and Arab hospitality by always opening her home to those seeking love, rest, and encouragement, even when she was a mother, wife, and caregiver.”
Finding the Narrow Way
15+ years of service in China, Thailand, Indonesia, and Bali
Medicine, education, Muslim ministry
C.G., who knows Chinese, Uyghur, and Indonesian, is part of a team that creatively reaches Uyghur with media. She is praying that in the next few years it would become common knowledge among the Uyghurs that God’s Word is available in their language and that anyone who is interested in reading it would know where to find a copy. The team has identified about 350 villages that represent over eighty percent of the entire Uyghur population and they are working to creatively reach each village.”
Healed by the Power of Love
Tim & Ann Wester
40+ years of service in Cameroon and Central African Republic (C.A.R.)
Medicine, education, Muslim ministry
Tim and Ann are both MKs whose parents worked in Congo—Zaire—D.R. Congo. Tim contracted polio there, and has walked with crutches since childhood. He became a medical doctor; Ann a teacher. They worked at a mission hospital and school for African girls in a remote area of northern Congo until one of its wars made the situation untenable. A mission in the C.A.R. gladly borrowed them and Tim worked in a hospital there and soon became director of the denomination’s medical work. Ann taught at a Central African high school. They developed an interest in the unreached Fulani Muslims and ministered to them through medicine, nutrition, and relationships. War came again and they fled to Cameroon.
Tim and Ann returned to the C.A.R. and have managed to continue outreach to the Fulani through more war and unrest. Ann teaches French and Bible to nursing school students; Tim is a doctor at the hospital. Countless Africans, and more than a few foreigners, have been healed and have heard of the power and love of God to save them. An untold number of young people have become better educated and at the same time learned the word of God.”
Investing in Leaders
37 years of service in Japan, Mongolia, China, Philippines, India, etc.
We’ve seen people movements for Christ due to Jim’s influence in many places. His signature work with Asian Access is something deeply embedded into our core values and which all of our alumni point to as transformational in their journey: a lifelong commitment to ‘a love relationship with God.’ While many might look at this and say, ‘That should be the norm for a Christ follower!’ once you become part of the Asian Access family, you get a sense of how deeply important this element is for ministry.
Jim had led one of the most fruitful church-planting efforts in Japan during the 1980s and early 1990s, helping to train and take the successful Japanese Church Growth Institute to other Asian countries. In addition to his work in partnership with Asian Access in Mongolia, Nepal, and Myanmar, Jim leads works in China, the Philippines, India, and other countries. He helped redevelop the Asian Access core curriculum, which has been catalytic in the lives of leaders across nations, leading many to be stronger in their walk with Christ and successful as church planters. I would say the work God has led Jim to accomplish is the single most transformative factor in leaders’ lives and has greatly influenced many to follow God.”
Blessing the Underprivilged
15 + years of service in Haiti
Medical work, orphanage oversight
Ann has brought various individuals to the USA for medical treatment. She has also made way for me to come study in the States and has been a supportive mother to me since 1999. She continues to run an orphanage in Haiti called God’s Children Haiti for those who are mostly underprivileged.”
Modeling through Wisdom and Kindness
Larry & Ann Vanderaa
30+ years of service in Liberia and Republic of Mali
Prayer, church planting, family ministry, small business
Born and raised in Africa, Larry and Ann met in an American college and returned to continue missionary work, starting in Liberia until war precluded their stay, and then for thirty more years in the Republic of Mali. Larry and Ann, along with other couples, each established small homes in a village and a larger home in the big city of Bamako. They raised their four kids, home schooled, and shared the gospel in life and word in this simple setting. Slowly, a handful accepted and listened to the gospel as Larry helped his Muslim friends to simply look at Jesus. He has not sought to have them join existing churches of other cultures, but enabled them to form one inside the Fulani culture. Once the team had a Fulfulde New Testament, the work was greatly enhanced.
Ann has had a great ministry of prayer with the women of the villages. She also became an outlet for their village to make goods and operated a store from her house in the city to sell these. Larry has written much on this adventure and approach and taught in both small settings to Christian workers in Bible School among the Fulani. Their kindness, wisdom, patience, and intrepidness truly are amazing.”
An Agent of Change
Trinidad (Trino) Angeles Chaname
40+ years of service in Peru
Trinidad is a man of God whose call started in an evangelistic campaign in the 1970s. Since then, God has been honing him, equipping him to take on more responsibility and becoming an agent of change in the Lord’s hands. Trino is from a small farm. He qualified himself as a carpenter, also selling alfalfa in the market.So, here in the marketplace is where my friend met Trino and invited him to help him in his house up in the mountains, doing the carpentry work needed in his house. Trino then lived with the family for many years, related to the Quechua people, and learned to speak Quechua.
After ten to eleven years, he went back to the coastal area and qualified himself for the ministry by studying to become a pastor. The La Playa community called him as their pastor and he still serves there. But it did not stay at that, because the Lord used his skills in many areas to become a very effective tool within the Quechua evangelical community, taking on a leadership role in bringing harmony and cooperation between different Quechua denominations and congregations. He was chosen to be the coordinator of the translation project of the Bible into Quechua. More recently, he has been elected to be president of the electoral committee, which is responsible for the democratic election of the committee that is to oversee the use of natural water sources to provide in the town’s need for drinking water. His respectful and effective service has been a strong example of a life full of love for our Lord.”
40 years of service in Japan and China
Teaching, Bible study
Dee has ministered predominantly in Japan, but has served every summer teaching English for over a decade in China as well. In an era and location known as a ‘missionaries’ graveyard,’ Dee has stayed the course, faithfully leading evangelistic Bible studies and leading her neighbors and friends to Christ. Her steady presence has made a significant kingdom impact that no one can measure.
Dee developed some excellent English Bible study materials. As others came and went, she endured, laying a foundation for what continues today as a fruitful ministry. She still walks, rides her bike, and leads Bible studies seven times a week even though she is in her 70s. I have rarely seen someone so focused and faithful to her one unique calling as Dee. I would argue there are few missionaries who have seen so many Japanese people come to Christ over the last forty years.”
Dr. Deborah Eisenhut
34+ years of service in Mexico, India, Haiti, Rwanda, Nigeria, Niger, Pakistan, Liberia, and Cameroon
Surgeon, medical training
Dr. Deborah (Debbie) Eisenhut has a deep faithfulness and courage in service to Christ. She is a trained, board-certified surgeon who is a leader in the medical team of Ebola fighters, yet is rarely mentioned. This recognition is fitting because of her outstanding and exemplary work as a surgeon and physician since August 2012 at ELWA Hospital in Liberia, especially during the Ebola outbreak of 2014. Dr. Debbie recognized the looming threat of an Ebola outbreak in early 2014. Her leadership in preparing the hospital staff by conducting intensive training in isolation protocols and in donning and doffing Personal Protective Equipment, identifying suspected cases of Ebola, and establishing a working, safe Isolation Unit in the hospital saved the lives of fellow doctors, nursing staff, and patients.
When the first patients confirmed with Ebola Virus Disease arrived at the ELWA Hospital in June 2014, Dr. Debbie spent uncounted hours in physically demanding conditions attending to them in the Isolation Unit, continuing her surgical schedule, and continuing to train hospital staff. Her courage and faithfulness in the face of appalling conditions was a visible reminder of Christ’s love and mercy to the people of Liberia. Dr. Debbie is currently serving in Cameroon, training surgeons for service in Africa and around the world. Her great desire is to demonstrate God’s love to the world in Christ, and to serve others in the name of Jesus.”
20+ years of service in Brazil
Pastor, leadership development, publishing ministry, teacher
Ken runs a multi-million dollar business in Brazil, investing in the Brazilian leaders through a publishing house. This publishing house works through the Brazilian leaders to publish Bibles and theologically sound resources for the Portuguese-speaking world, both locally and in other parts of the world. This is a true Business as Mission venture that receives little attention outside of the Portuguese-speaking world as he makes a valuable contribution to missions and the growth of the Church.
With humble beginnings and a commitment to God and his Word, Ken models the humility and investment in people through his many years of service both as a pastor and through his years of service to those who needed him to serve. As a CEO, he continues to invest in the Church as wisely as possible. As a follower of Christ, he invests his teaching skills in a training school, and God has allowed him to continue as a pastor, investing in those God brings into his path.”
Jonathan & Dorothy Luethy
30+ years of service in Japan
Church planting, parents
Mr. & Mrs. Luethy are missionaries serving in an isolated province in western Japan. They have quietly done church planting in that rural area for over thirty years. Through perseverance and faithfulness to their call, they have labored hard to see just a trickling of Japanese come to faith in Christ. They have done a couple of church plants, but, as is typical for Japan, the churches are small (around thirty members) and in need of national leadership. They tirelessly work the villages, making contacts through tract distribution and social events. They raised three children there, all who are now married adults living in the States, but they continue to persist in Japan away from children and grandchildren.”
Doing Life ‘With’
E. Wesley Seng
45 years of service in Brazil
Bible study, leadership training
Wes Seng came to Christ during a VBS when he was 9. His dad was very angry when he went to Bible school and, worse yet, to Brazil as a missionary. More than twenty years later Wes buried his dad in Brazil. His experience of being one of just a few children at the VBS bred in him a lasting commitment to reach ‘the least of these’ in the most remote places. Upon first arrival, Wes and his wife, Trudy, immediately started a Bible study and planted a church among the ranch hands. Wes was then asked to stand in for a missionary on furlough to do tribal work and he never left. Setting up training centers, he built circular classrooms: he placed the tribal students in a circle and taught using orality combined with literacy. He began taking students from one tribe to minister in other tribes, thousands of kilometers away, and often faced grave danger.
Wes is passionate about doing life with his tribal friends and neighbors in godly and culturally appropriate ways. His focus is to train disciples of Christ to deeply love, understand, and obey God’s Word because the Word was ‘written so it would be a part of us, intrinsic to our lives.’ He modeled a humble spirit and a scholarly, intensely practical approach to the Bible as he brought God’s Word not just to training centers, but to everyday life in Brazil as he walked with tribal church leaders.
On an Adventure
43 years of service in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire
Nurse, church planting, country director
Ruby served the Lord in Africa for forty years. Little did she know when she dedicated her life to the Lord that it would be an adventure in missions. She first went to Ethiopia in 1972 to serve in hospital nursing. Like many Ethiopian workers she had to leave Ethiopia in 1979 because of the revolution. In 1980, she relocated to Ghana, working in primary health care, church planting, Bible teaching and women’s ministry. In Ghana, not only was she a nurse, she was also an important part of the church-planting team. She and her colleagues learned how to communicate in the local language, and along with a cultural understanding, was involved in planting several churches among the Kasena of Northern Ghana.
Later, she moved to Accra, the capital of Ghana, and served as director until she retired. This, too, was an adventure in learning how to lead and to guide. Since returning from Ghana, her adventure on mission continues as she has taken up the role as mentor, trainer and mobilizer for Majority World missions. It is her prayer that this role will prepare and enable missionaries to thrive in their ministry. Ruby considers being on a mission adventure with God as the best part of her life!”
Walking in the Presence of God
18 years of service in Egypt and Jordan
Development, training, church planting, refugee support
Y.M. is a single Korean woman who served for twelve years in Egypt and Jordan. When she first deployed in 1997, she had to learn English and Arabic at the same time. In 2003, because her roommate distributed a Bible in a public place, they were both imprisoned for six days and then deported from Egypt. During her imprisonment ‘God brought me into His sweetest presence and said to me, “This is not the end of your journey and I will send you to the place where I want you to be…I will be with you.”’
Y.M. moved to Jordan in 2006 and reached out to Bedouins through development projects. She helped to open five kindergartens and reached one hundred families. Many were touched by God’s love and received Bibles. They were threatened by the government and sometimes weary. After receiving her M.A. on furlough, she returned to Jordan in order to work with relief training and provide a complete biblical response to suffering in addition to working with church-planting teams and leadership development.”
Steadfast on the Word
27+ years of service in China
Discipleship, Bible training, medical clinics
I’ve known Diane for more than twenty years. I look up to her as an example of both Christian living and missionary service. She’s always cheerful and encouraging, even when faced with difficult circumstances. She’s godly, a woman of prayer, humble, and takes her work of sharing the good news with the lost in China very seriously. Her passion and focus are discipleship and teaching the Word, primarily to the Sani minority group in southern China.
Over the years, her NGO has provided teacher training, midwife training, medical clinics, and child sponsorship. She has trained up a Chinese woman to do evangelism and discipleship in rural areas. She meets with individuals or families for Bible study, and holds Bible studies for women who have been rescued from the ‘entertainment industry.’ Additionally, she teaches the Bible to Chinese Christian leaders. During these studies, she desires not merely to teach the Word, but to instruct the leaders in how to properly study the Word themselves. On the field, one is confronted with a great variety of needs, but Diane has fought to ‘keep the main thing the main thing,’ that of teaching the Word of God. She lives out 2 Timothy 2:2 by investing time in studying the Word with reliable people who will be qualified to teach others.”
More than a Mentor
28 years of service in Thailand and Cambodia
Church Planting, discipleship, leadership training, mentor
Since 1992, the Robinette’s have faithfully served among the Khmer people of Cambodia. They were among the first to be able to enter the newly-opened Cambodia as missionaries. Throughout Kelly’s ministry in Cambodia, he and his wife, Cyndi, raised their two children and have been affectionately known as missionary ‘Uncle’ and ‘Aunt’ to dozens of missionary kids. Kelly has endeavored to see the Kingdom of God advance through church planting.
Whether serving as a Bible school director, school program coordinator, or local pastor, he has continually strived to enable pastors and parishioners to recognize the value of this ministry. He has a faithfulness in ministry and vigor in seeing new churches established, as well as a legacy to the missionaries who have followed in his footsteps to serve the Khmer people. His practical methodology has opened door after door for churches to be established, ministries to be birthed, and most importantly, people to be brought to Christ.”
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EMQ, Vol. 52, No. 1 pp. 148-159. Copyright © 2016 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.