For those of us on staff in ReachGlobal, the names Gene and Gloria are very familiar. For those reading this who may be from a supporting church or just a prayer partner, the Van Den Boschs have been wonderful friends, colleagues and mentors to many of us through the years. They have recently come on board with ReachGlobal Latin America/Caribbean as part of the Member Care team. We call them our “Pastors to Missionaries”, and they will serve a crucial role of supporting those of us on the field. Today, I thought it would be nice for them to share their own story of how they have come to this point. We are so incredibly eager for them to begin their ministry, and I hope you enjoy the read:
In 1993, we felt called to go on our first short-term missions’ trip to Romania. We can still remember the Sunday when we felt God’s call to go on that trip. Missions was not something that we had ever thought we would do or even knew much about. God took us totally out of our comfort zone (even out knowledge zone). We spent two weeks in Romania and saw God do things we had never experienced before, we met people who had survived Communism and had such hard lives yet had a joy in the Lord and heart for sharing the Gospel that we had never seen before.
We went on our 2ndshort-term trip to Romania in 1994 and after that trip, we experienced a tug to return. God took us on baby steps as He called us back to serve Him long term. On December 3, 1995 we flew to Romania. Our two youngest daughters attended Black Forest Academy in Germany; our two oldest daughters stayed behind in the US.
During out time in Romania, we experienced culture shock, culture fatigue, language learning and building relationships, and learned what it meant to plant a church. It was in these years that our understanding of who God is and what God can do and our faith in Him grew more than at any other time in our lives. It was the best of times, the worst of times.
God brought us back from Romania in mid-2001. We felt God closing the door to us living in Romania but didn’t feel Him closing the door on being with ReachGlobal. We had developed a heart to care for missionaries because of our experiences in Romania. We had hoped to care for missionaries on the field, but God also closed that door to us. He had another plan for us; he called us to the EFCA National Office in 2002 and God showed us how we could care for missionaries in our roles there.
We have told countless applicants over the years that we were the poster children for going overseas unprepared and not ready. We believe that God gave us those experiences, so we could build an onboarding process to ensure that those feeling called to go would be prepared and ready. There are so many ways God met us over these last 16 years, so many ways in which He revealed Himself to us. He has grown us up in so many ways to understand who we are and who He created us to be and how we can use His gifting of us for His glory and to serve His people.
There are 3 things that we have said we would never do that relate to our life as missionaries. 1. We lived in MN in the 80’s when Gene was with IBM and we said we NEVER wanted to live there again. 2. When we joined the mission, we said that we NEVER wanted to work at the National Office. We currently live in MN and have worked at the National Office for 16 years. The 3rdis, we said we NEVER wanted to do Ministry Partnership Development (MPD) again to raise up prayer and financial partners.
In August 2018, we went to the Latin America Caribbean area conference and it was there in conversations with our staff, through Bible teaching times, personal Bible reading and prayer that God dealt with our ‘never’ of doing MPD again. We also believe that, while He released us from our roles at the National Office; as in 2001, He hasn’t released us from ReachGlobal.
God is giving us our original desire to care for missionaries. It is a role called Pastors to Missionaries (PTMs) which is part of our Member Care team. While we won’t be living overseas, we will be caring for missionaries through visits to their locations, through emails and through skype calls. Some of this care will be reactive as they have difficult circumstances in their lives; some of this care will be proactive as we give them resources to help guard their hearts.
We will be PTMs to the missionary staff in ReachGlobal’s Latin America/Caribbean division and we are very excited about this. We will be doing this on a part-time basis – we are retiring for a reason! The pull of grandchildren is powerful!
For most PTMs, it takes 1-2 years to build relationships with those on their fields. We are blessed to know our missionary families already as the majority have come through the onboarding process. We are so excited to be able to care for these dear colleagues.
During out time at the National Office, we cared for those preparing to go, through processes, details and tasks. Sometimes, caring for them meant hard conversations in which we needed to speak the truth in love. Sometimes it meant saying no, sometimes, not yet. As we look at this new role as PTMs, our focus is to listen and love them. How great is that?!
God is asking us to step out in faith to trust Him to what He has called us to in our repurposing. It is a faith journey that is not completely new for us; but this is taking us to a place of total reliance on God’s provision for us.
We are excited about raising up a team of people to partner with us in serving and caring for our missionary staff in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. We believe that anything that is done to expand the Kingdom of God on this earth through our missionaries is counted as heavenly reward to us. but also, to those who partner with us in prayer and finances.
In great anticipation of God will do!
Let’s be praying for and cheering on Gene and Gloria as they make this transition and walk through the MPD process this year!