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The Mission Lifestyle: An Interview with Rachel Wilson

Rachel Wilson was interviewed by Hannah Hargraves on August 19, 2022. They both grew up in the same church, Norwin Alliance Church, a member of the Christian & Missionary Alliance (CMA).

How did you get started in missions?

I wanted to be a missionary since I was 5 years old. As I was going through college to learn to be a teacher, I discovered that I could do my student teaching overseas. I went to Geneva college. I did my student teaching in Paraguay at a missionary school there and that’s how I got started with missions. Also during college I went on a mission trip to Mexico and it was on that trip that God confirmed the call for me to become a missionary.

There are a lot of people my age who say they don’t know what they want to do with their life. For me, I’ve always known and it’s really been a blessing.

Are you fluent in Spanish?

Yes, I took 4 years of Spanish in high school. When I was a junior and trying to decide if I should take the fourth year, God spoke to me and told me I was going to need it.

Where have you done missions work?

Mexico, Paraguay, Ecuador, and Ethiopia.

I grew up CMA. That helped fuel my love for missions through missions conferences where missionaries would come and tell their stories. I was totally like…I want to do that!

My mission work today is through SIM I actually didn’t join the missionary group I’m part of until 2008 after I returned from Paraguay. When I was in Paraguay I was there independently teaching in a missionary school. SIM helped provide teachers to the school and that is how I learned a lot about their organization.

Once you joined SIM, did you get to choose which countries you got to go to?

One of the things I really appreciate about SIM is that they want to hear what we’ve been hearing from God. In 2005 I knew that God wanted me to go to Africa. So when I joined SIM in 2008, I asked them what schools in Africa they might need an elementary or special education teacher. I also knew I wanted to do something with high school families. SIM basically gave me a list of all the opportunities and God made it very clear that it was Ethiopia. So I went to Ethiopia for seven years from 2011 to 2018.

Africa was very different from South America. It challenged me in many different ways. Language was a lot harder. I already had a base of Spanish when I went to S. America but when I went to Ethiopia I went to language school for 10 months to learn Amharic which is the local language. Amharic is a combination of Hebrew and Arabic. It has a completely different alphabet and character set. I cried every day because it was very hard, but I wanted to communicate with people so I forced myself into situations where I had to use the language and this helps my language learning.

When I was teaching at missionary schools I was teaching English. I could have very well stayed in the English speaking bubble, but I wanted the full experience of where I was living. I’m very thankful for that because now the ministry I’m doing is working with nationals and the local church and so most of the people that I’m with don’t speak any English. But some do speak Spanish and so I can use that.

I’m thankful that I have that desire to try and learn a language. To give it my best go. My heart is to see people come to know Christ and then to grow in Christ. I realized after living several years in Africa and Ethiopia that I have an evangelistic heart and I want to share the gospel with people, but it was frustrating to me because I couldn’t even do that in Amharic. But God then opened the doors for me to come back to a Spanish speaking country and I was so happy about that.

This is the third ministry I’ve been in and this is like a rough timeline of my ministry:

Paragruay – Taught English in the capital city. 2000-2008

United States – Taught in public schools in Northern Virginia

Ethipoia – When I joined SIM I taught in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, from 2011-2018

God then moved me out of the classroom and during my last term in Ethiopia I was an educational consultant for home school families traveling all around Ethiopia to where we had SIM missionaries and I would go support them educationally and emotionally.

One day I remember I was teaching missionary kids and I looked out the window and I saw the parents interacting with the nationals and in my heart I thought…”God could I do that? Could that be my full time ministry?”. I have a desire to see the lost come to Christ. God said yes and I moved back to a Spanish speaking country. Now I’m in Ecuador working with the rural churches focused on doing Bible studies and teaching the Bible to adults. God wants me to focus on spiritual children, who are adults.

Lots of missionaries do church planting, but what exactly does that mean?

I’m working alongside a family that has been meeting for the past 4 years together. Their cell has branched off a main church. I’m supporting the leadership of that cell group and helping them think about how they can reach out to the community and grow beyond that cell group. We want to build Christ focused communities. When I say “church” I mean a body of believers. We already have a body of believers and I’m helping them reach out to the community. We always want to partner with a local church from a bigger city. Our objective is always to be making sure the branch church is connected to the main church. We also want the people in the city to understand it’s their child. They have to care for it. We want to help people understand it takes personnel to help us, we need financial support and we need prayer support. It’s very much like supporting a missionary in many ways because this I what I ask people to do for me and my mission. To be praying for me. To be financially supporting me. To advocate for me. Hey! I just made that connection just now. I am sent from Norwin Alliance Church and so I hope some day to have people from our church come out and see what ministry is like here. That’s the idea of rural church planning. We don’t want to support a bunch of mini churches and find they don’t have the support tjhey need to grow and become mature and stand on their own two feet. You have to feed them spiritually by studying the word of God with them. It’s an amazing privilege and I really love it.

I do about 5 or 6 different bible studies each week. Sometimes a few people together or a family or a group.

Do you have a building for the church in Loja?

No we are still meeting in the family’s home. I love it because it’s more the model we see in the book of Acts. We start meeting in homes and you have to be very sensitive about the time where you start renting a place to meet. If you’re not careful, it can actually stunt the growth of the church plan. It’s a delicate balance and you want to do it at exactly the right time. The church has to be able to sustain the building. A lot of people in rural areas are living day by day and if the church hasn’t learned the art of tithing, what it means to give back and be part of the ministry. Teaching them how to use their money wisely is very important. You don’t want to rush into renting a building and then not being able to support that building. As missionaries, we don’t want them to be entirely dependent on us and our financial assistance. We need to train others how to be independent. How to do bible study. It’s like how in the Bible, when you seen Paul took Timothy along with him. We are always working to train, like the bible says, 2x2.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My days are never exactly the same. But I try to start each day with my own devotional time with God. Time where I can let God speak to me about my own spiritual growth which is a lifelong process. Then I set aside some time for self care to ensure I’m eating right and exercising. And then my day is either out of my house doing bible studies with people, or typically in home preparing for those bible studies. People are often working during the day, so I often meet with them from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the evenings. You have to understand that you are dependent on when they are free to be able to study. As a missionary you have many administrative tasks you need to do and I do these during the day. You always need to be flexible because you never know when someone may call you and invite you to coffee or lunch. And lunch is not a 20 minute thing. People here eat lunch as their main meal of the day. If I go to someone’s house for lunch I have to expect to be there probably 2 hours. That is a huge part of ministry. Spending time with people and just doing life with them. Sitting in their house and they have prepared a meal for you and you’re talking while eating, you’re starting to learn where they are coming from and this opens doors to know how to pray for them and potentially have conversations with them about different things. You have to be SUPER flexible. It’s one of the things any missionary needs to be. It’s very different from the United States where everything is very time oriented and task oriented. Here, it is people oriented and the relationship is more important than the task. Even after 20 years, this is something I struggle with as an American.

What does education look like for missionary kids, especially out in remote areas?

In the 20 years I’ve been part of education in the mission field it’s changed a lot. If you’re living in a capital city, it’s very easy to have a dedicated missionary school and kids can be going in and out of school every day. If you’re living outside of a major city, you have to rely on home schooling more. You can’t be traveling hours and hours each day. Boarding is an option too, where kids live with the missionary school in one location that is different from where their parents live and work. This is becoming a lot less common nowadays because the idea of keeping families together is increasing. God is calling the family to missions, not just the parents. Because we want to go to where the gospel hasn’t been preached yet, we tend to go outside of big cities and that is where families rely on home schooling. But then you run into problems. In some countries home schooling is not legal and this requires then

that the families live closer to the city. In Ecuador we encourage families to go to national schools so that they get the language and cultural learnings. Some families will also try to have small home school co-ops where the parents will help teach the kids. There are so many needs for educators in the missionary field. Either to be teaching at a missionary school or to be home schooling or doing a one room school house or even living with a family and actually doing the home schooling with the kids so the families can focus on the ministries. Whatever the situation, we definitely try to keep the families together. This is very different from years ago where kids were sent off to boarding school at an early age and then not seen for years. You can never assume a child is a Christian, even if their parents are

missionaries. They still have to discover their own faith.

Does SIM give you things like insurance or retirement savings or anything?

When I’m in the states, I raise by own budget. It does include things like international health insurance. I pay my social security. I pay into my retirement funds. I pay my rent, and utilities and gas and so forth. I’m raising funds for all of those things when I’m back in the states. I also help support other missionaries. You have to be a wise steward of the money you raise. In the end, it’s all God’s money. Sometimes people ask me when I’m on home assignment…”Will you get a job?”. When I’m on home assignment, that IS my job. I do ministry. And I’m working to raise money to fund my missions work when I’m out of country. I travel and visit all my supporters and tell them what’s going on and how to pray for our needs. It’s a full time job.

Do you get days off?

Yes, YES, YES! Remember the commandment that says, Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy? I think a lot of people in ministry think well, I can’t take a day off because there are always needs. However, if you don’t take time for self-care, then you don’t have anything to give to other people. Unfortunately too many people in ministry learn it the hard way and get burnt out. We usually have one day off per week and we take off whatever holidays they have locally. We even have vacation time like any other job you might have. You’ve been working and so you get days off. This is much needed when you have days where you may have been ministering for 12 hours. God commands us to rest, and rest is

one of the ways we honor God. That’s why God gave us a Sabbath day!

In some ways, being a missionary is like regular job. I think a popular misconception is that it’s always about suffering for the mission. Whether it was my work in the states in education, or my work in Ecuador as a missionary, it’s my calling. It’s my ministry. It’s my job. I have to do all the things that anyone has to do. I have to do laundry, I have to take my car to the mechanic, I have to grocery shop.

What kind of things do you do for fun when you are resting?

“Fun” changes as you get older. I may choose to spend the day with one of the families I minister with. I might stay at their house and go to a park. Recently it was my birthday and I wanted to ride a donkey. It’s been a silly lifelong dream. So I went with a ministry family and sat on a big statue of a big donkey in front of the park. Then we went and had a nice Ecuadorian lunch. So now, I think “fun” means hanging out with my friends and the local families and having coffee and talking about life. I have trouble allowing myself to have fun. I don’t like that and I’ve been praying about it with God.

Are there any other stories, information, or advice you'd like to share?

I do a lot of recruitment for SIM on college campuses. I find a lot of people get concerned about raising financial support for their missions. It took me a long time to learn this, but it’s an invitation. You invite people to be part of the ministry. And like any invitation, some people will accept it , and some will decline it. And it’s a lot like our salvation. God invites us to be part of his family. You have to accept His invitation to be part of His family. Same for missions, you have to invite people to be part of your family. Inviting people to be part of this process is super important. It can’t be done alone. It takes a team to get one missionary off to the field. So don’t be afraid. Fear holds you back. There are so many things that I’ve been able to be part of that I would have never dreamed or imagined I would be. We have to walk in faith and not in fear. Let go all your fears. Walking by faith is going to give you an

amazing life! The people and the places I’ve been able to meet with…I would have never imagine how blessed I am. I would also encourage people to not wait for your mate to come to get involved in your ministry. Don’t let fear hold you back. Just go. If God’s calling you…Go! Don’t listen to the world around you. The world around you is telling you the opposite of what the Bible tells you. The world is full of sin. Know and listen to the Bible.


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