Mark Blosser has heard variations on the question: Are TWR missionaries real missionaries?
After all, they usually don’t fit the conventional image of the church planter, teacher or doctor toiling away in remote villages. Sure, TWR personnel’s activities do sometimes overlap these of more traditional missionaries. Most of the time, though, they involve technical duties – such as creating programming, expanding digital ministries and operating radio transmitters – or the many administrative tasks that make it possible to broadcast to millions … even billions.
The station director at the Swaziland transmitter site, Blosser said he’s even heard TWR missionaries express doubt that they fit the image.
“My response to them is that they are more than missionaries!” said Blosser, who has served with TWR alongside his wife, Debbie, for 33 years. “They are a missionary to missionaries! Many missionaries tune in to TWR to get their spiritual food. Plus, TWR reaches many more people by one program than a single missionary could ever hope to reach in an entire lifetime.”
Missions is pretty much in Mark and Debbie’s blood. He grew up in India as the son of missionaries, who themselves later served a stint with TWR, and his brother, Dan, also is a TWR missionary. Debbie grew up in Alaska, where her parents had worked with missionaries, and met Mark in the dining hall while studying at Fort Wayne Bible College in Indiana. His missions-mindedness got her thinking about a life on the field.
“I am not a risk taker, so I must admit that I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to go overseas by myself to be a missionary,” Debbie said. “But I could see myself as a help for Mark in the work of TWR, and the secretarial skills I had excelled at in high school could be used as well. Step by step, God brought the plan all together.”
Soon after marrying in 1979, they were at the transmitter site in Guam, where they served 12½ years and Mark eventually became station director. He took the same job after a transfer to Sri Lanka, and during an eight-year tenure, took part in rebuilding the station and replacing the antennas and transmitter. Before and after the birth of their children, Rhonda and Peter, Debbie took on secretarial and mission hostess duties, which she continued in Sri Lanka and today in Swaziland.
Veteran missionaries like the Blossers usually are quick to acknowledge that there is an element of adventure in what they do and that their lives rarely proceed along carefully prescribed career paths. Mark’s own life reveals ample evidence of both aspects. After studying electrical technology at LeTourneau University, he introduced new crop varieties in Bangladesh and then embarked with his older brother on a 10-month, 25,000-mile motorcycle journey making a gigantic arc from South Asia to the tip of South Africa.
Growing up on the mission field, Mark had learned to expect the unexpected. That didn’t keep him from having to scramble to do some serious adapting when he found himself high in the air stacking sections of a transmission tower or when a new 10-year contract with the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corp. was needed.
“There was just no one else to do the job, so you had to roll up your sleeves and figure out how to do it,” he said. “A case in point for me would be working with government people negotiating a new contract with SLBC. I never expected to do it, but it turned out to be rather an exciting process, which after it was done gave a real sense of accomplishment and feeling that the Lord had led me by the hand!”
More recently, the unexpected popped up when it was suggested that Debbie and Mark facilitate a marriage course. Despite some apprehension as they accepted, the results far exceeded expectations, producing positive changes among the participating couples, including the Blossers. Now they are pondering whether using the marriage course to help prepare TWR couples for the mission field might be God’s plan for the next stage of their life ministry.
As Mark and Debbie look ahead to retirement in 2015, they are growing concerned about the need for new missionaries to take over the work. What advice would they offer to young people contemplating a life in missions?
“I fully understand your misgivings of being able to live a missionary life,” Mark said. “It has its challenges and is not the easiest path to take. But if you feel God calling you, it will bring great fulfillment and there is probably nothing more that will cause you to feel you have made a lasting difference with your life.”
Debbie has a very practical take on the question.
“If you don’t know whether or not you ‘would be able to live the missionary life,’ why not go for one or two years to get the feel of it and see how God works in your heart?” she said. “So many times we have seen God work in the heart of a short-term worker and they stay on for their whole career.”