Welcome, Missionary Associates
By Rick Johnson
“Our missionary associate position opened our eyes to the needs of the world and helped us see how much work we have left to do in fulfilling the Great Commission,” says Kurtis Denton. He and his wife, Amy, served as missionary associates in Italy prior to becoming full-time missionaries to that nation in 2003.
Thanks to steps taken by Assemblies of God World Missions leadership in recent years, more short-term overseas opportunities with AGWM are available today than ever before.
“We have heard repeatedly that this present generation is more relational and wants hands-on involvement with the mission field and the ministries it represents,” says John Bueno, AGWM executive director.
“Our young people want to be involved in taking the gospel to the world — perhaps not as a career, but as a short-term missionary during the summer or following college. We do not want to limit their participation simply because they are not traditionally appointed missionaries. Instead, we want to allow the Holy Spirit to guide men and women of every age in being involved in fulfilling the Great Commission.”
AGWM personnel is a growing missionary family of more than 4,000 — including 2,051 missionaries, 640 missionary associates, and 1,400 missionary children — taking the gospel to 212 countries and territories.
These dedicated men and women, along with their children, are sharing the good news with people worldwide in cities, urban areas, and remote villages. Together they work with more than 303,000 national pastors in six geographical regions — Africa, Asia Pacific, Eurasia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean and Northern Asia.
The 2,051 career missionaries were appointed by the AGWM executive committee, currently led by Bueno and composed of 12 additional members. Career missionaries have sensed the call of God to leave their homeland and devote their lives to planting the church in other lands. Many continue for 20, 30, 40, or even 50 years of service.
Number of Missionary Associates Increasing
The fastest growing segment of our missionary force today is missionary associates. This program enables interested and qualified participants to go overseas for an initial 1- to 2-year commitment.
The MA program is available for laypersons and ministers, 18 years and older, who desire to volunteer their skills in supportive roles to career missionaries. Some MA applicants have ministerial credentials, but most do not.
This program links people with various vocational gifts with ministries overseas that urgently need their help. Missionary associates, using their unique gifts and abilities, help veteran missionaries by sharing the workload on the field. Today, 640 missionary associates are serving worldwide.
“The MA program gives young people opportunity to get acquainted with the needs of our world,” says Bueno, “and to be participants, not just observers, in the message we proclaim. Many young people who go overseas for a one-time experience are challenged to serve Christ as full-time missionaries. This eliminates the fear that short-termers are detrimental to our career missionary status.”
Bueno and two other current AGWM executive committee members began their missions careers with a 2-year, short-term assignment long before the missionary associate program was introduced.
The first World Missions Summit hosted in 2005 in Louisville, Kentucky, gave a great boost to our missionary associate program. This event created widespread awareness and welcomed into our Movement young people desiring to serve for at least 1 year on a mission field. More than 600 young people made a commitment for short-term service at that event.
The Value of Missionary Associates
According to Ron Maddux, regional director for Northern Asia, “Missionary associates are different from the Missions Abroad Placement Service workers of the past.
“Missionary associates perform ministry tasks that are essential to the work of missions in many countries. In many restricted-access countries, missionary associates often get to the field quickly and perform tasks required by governments, thus providing a reason for our organization to remain in that country.
“Furthermore, the missionary associate program serves as a farm league for career missionary service. Missionary associates serve in a country and sense what God is saying to them about long-term service. That experience exposes them to language, culture, and ministry that will serve them well if they become career missionaries.”
Nearly 70 percent of career missionaries in Northern Asia began as missionary associates.
Those working closely with the AGWM personnel process believe it is helpful for people to go to the mission field as missionary associates for these reasons:
- The MA experience often confirms a person’s call to and capabilities for full-time career missions service. Many of our 2,051 appointed missionaries began as missionary associates.
- If the MA experience does not confirm the person’s call and they decide not to pursue further service, they have received firsthand exposure to missions without having to raise a full missionary budget.
- Much of what our Assemblies of God missionary force is able to accomplish would be impossible without the help of missionary associates. Many are involved in strategic ministries.
AGWM leaders recognize the importance of the giftings the Lord gives the body of Christ. Many missionary associates have the abilities urgently needed on our mission fields.
“The missionary associate program, as with all AGWM ministries, strives to find the right people for the right places in God’s harvest field,” says Tim Southerland, area director for Northern Europe. “Many of our missionary associates work alongside seasoned missionaries for 1 or 2 years, while growing as a believer and being discipled.”
“Many times the MA helps the missionary move his or her ministry to another level,” says Paul Weis, Central America area director. “Sometimes this happens by his direct involvement with what the missionary is doing. At other times, the MA helps in areas that free up the missionary for more focused dedication to the ministry to which God has called him.”
“Our experiences with MAs have been positive, especially in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru,” says Ray Talley, area director for the Andean Region of Latin America. “They bring fresh enthusiasm to the missionaries, show creativity in their ministry tasks, and find ways to effectively contribute to and enhance ongoing ministries on the field.”
“We’ve had several great MAs in the Caribbean,” says Dale Coad, area director. “Often, in a spiritual battle when victory hangs in the balance and missionaries are weary, MAs have come in like Aaron and Hur, to hold up their hands.”
Training of Missionary Associates
Important to the missionary associate program is the orientation and training we provide. AGWM Personnel and Family Life Office conducts training sessions, called Prefield Orientation, at least three times a year. We provide MAs with helpful information, stress the importance of teamwork, and explain the mentoring process they will be a part of once they arrive on the field.
“Missionary associates are thrust into a new culture where, because of the short-term nature of their assignment, they must quickly adjust,” says Gerald Branum, area director for Western Europe. “We endeavor to provide orientation at the regional and area levels to adequately prepare associates for the challenges of walking the cross-cultural line. Further orientation takes place on the field with the missionary to whom the MA is assigned.”
Support for Missionary Associates
“In our existing short-term ministries — Ambassadors in Missions and the 1- to 2-year missionary associate program — participants raise their own money, relying on the generosity of home churches or family members,” says Bueno. “It is virtually impossible for home churches or family members to completely support all of the young people desiring to participate as missionary associates.
Bueno encourages pastors to find ways and means to help MA candidates commit themselves to the task.
He says, “It is time for us to open the doors of our churches to these volunteers, giving them greater opportunity for exposure to the needs of our world, and to satisfy their desire to be a part of what Jesus commanded us to do.
“We must continually look for ways to facilitate this process if we believe this is the provision of the Lord in supplying needed laborers around the world.
“Many people who come to us say, ‘I don’t have the experience to be a missionary associate.’
“I reply, ‘We will provide you with the experience. We cannot give you a call to missions, a heart for service, or the giftings, but we can give you the experience.’ ”
If applicants come to AGWM with a teachable heart and a servant attitude, as a missionary associate they will gain the experience they need to serve effectively.
Anyone interested in becoming a missionary associate or participating in short-term missions can visit our Web site at http://www.Goag.org and explore the list of personnel needs that currently exists in many countries.