You might have to coax it out of him, but computer programmer Matt Willy will admit that enlisting individuals and churches in support of his calling to missions can be uncomfortable.
Calling people on the phone and addressing large groups to seek their financial and prayer support are downright difficult for this self-acknowledged introvert from Las Cruces, N.M. But the TWR missionary appointee keeps plugging away at his goal: service in Vienna, Austria, as a software engineer.
“One thing I’m learning the most is that God doesn’t necessarily always take the people that we would say are the most skilled or the most good at public speaking or preaching – or, I guess, the more typical missionary,” the 26-year-old New Mexico State University graduate said. “He equips people in the way that he wants them, and pretty much as long as you listen to him and are faithful, he can use anyone. Even those of us who are not good at being in front.”
After missionary candidates make it through a rigorous process that includes application, multiple levels of screening and interviews, evaluation by psychiatric professionals and an orientation session, they officially become appointees and embark on Ministry Partner Development. MPD, which typically takes six months to three years to complete, begins with special training to prepare appointees for the demanding regimen of public speaking, making phone calls, writing letters and related networking that build the long-term financial support required to deploy a missionary on the field.
TWR’s Human Resources team realizes that for most appointees the prospect of navigating this process at the same time they prepare to plunge into a vastly different lifestyle in an unfamiliar country is daunting. So HR assigns coaches to “walk alongside” the individuals and couples throughout the process. Anne White, who served three years in Vienna before being assigned to HR (www.twr.org/serve) in Cary, N.C., as a mobilizer, is coaching several of the current appointees, staying in regular phone contact to encourage and challenge them, pray with them, and answer lots of questions about paperwork, finances, life on the field, and anything else that arises.
“It is definitely the most challenging piece of the puzzle,” White said. “But time and again we have seen how God uses the MPD process to challenge, refine, and prepare our appointees for their time on the field. The most difficult aspect of MPD for our appointees seems to be making contact with potential ministry partners (in other words, reaching people on the phone and also making new contacts) and getting responses from potential ministry partners once the appointee has presented his or her or their ministry.”
As this issue went to press, White said 10 “appointee units” (couples or families count as a single unit) were in the pipeline – in other words, being prepared for service on the mission field. Recruits come from a variety sources, with the TWR mobilizers concentrating their efforts on “missions-minded universities” that offer degree programs in disciplines matching TWR’s personnel needs – engineering, finance, communication and others. The mobilizers have been especially active on the campuses of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, LeTourneau University in Texas, Northwestern College in Minnesota, and North Greenville University in South Carolina.
TWR’s HR team also has a variety of other recruiting channels, including a partnership with The Traveling Team, which visits secular universities each year and exhibits at strategic events such as the popular Urbana student missions conference and the National Religious Broadcasters and Christian Music Broadcasters conventions.
To assist with this crucial task, appointees now have the chance to work with a newly formed TWR unit to make a short video for use in introducing them and their intended assignment to potential supporters. So far, Global Video Coordinator Tyler Gates has worked with Matt Willy and two appointee couples to create these new MPD tools (www.vimeo.com/twrglobal). He also produces short videos featuring President Lauren Libby endorsing the appointees for their use in raising support.
Gates learned firsthand the value of an introductory video when he made one to help as he and his wife raised missionary support in their home state of Alaska. He tries to keep the videos from becoming overloaded with facts and figures about the missions work because it rarely translates into effective church support.
“My wife and I realized that the more people were familiar with us as a family and as people, the easier it was to give to our ministry,” Gates said. “Therefore, the primary goal of these videos is not to explain the ministry, but rather to create good feelings towards the appointee as a person and follower of Christ. I like to think of the goal in terms of ‘does the audience want to take you out to lunch after watching this video?’ The reason for this is that if people don't like you, they won't support your ministry no matter how important it is.”
Willy, who juggles a part-time research job as he navigates the challenging MPD process, is eager to start his assignment in Vienna.
“I had graduated from college and didn't really have any idea of what was next, but then God opened the door to working with TWR, and now I am excited for where God is leading me,” said Willy, who previously put his skills to work for TWR during an internship in Benin. “… I am really hoping to be at or near full support by the beginning of next year.”