Ian and Anne-Marie met at university and got married shortly before attending All Nations Christian College and then applying to join OMF. They went out to the Philippines initially, arriving while still in their mid 20s. In the years since, they have served with OMF in a variety of leadership roles.
Here they share a little about their journey into long-term missions.
How did you know God was calling you into long-term mission?
Ian – ‘Going to university to study engineering, I was beginning to wonder whether God was calling me overseas and it was this growing conviction, rather than any single event, that led me to long-term missions.
I had really come to faith in my last year at school and had a growing appreciation that the Bible was not just about me and my relationship with God but was about God and his world. Isaiah 49:6 was quite a significant verse where God says:
‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’
I didn’t see that verse as being about me, but rather that God’s purposes were not just about the people of Israel or a few individuals, but the whole world.
Anne-Marie – ‘When I was 17 a friend wanted to join a mission prayer group in the village, but she wanted some moral support as all the other people praying for mission were at least over 40. So the two of us went along to this joint BMMF [now Interserve]/OMF prayer group. I learnt a lot about God’s world and mission by praying with this group.
I also went to university with a sense God was maybe calling me into full time service in some way, but I wasn’t sure how that would work out. In my first summer at university I got involved in the outreach to international students and joined the team serving in term time as well. We helped people studying at language schools with their English. It was also fascinating to have a Bible study with a Spaniard, a Swiss and a Mexican and a Japanese, with all their different views. The area I grew up in was not very ethnically diverse so this was a new experience and a big part of God beginning to put the nations on my heart.
With a growing awareness of God’s heart for the nations, I also knew that God wanted all of my life, not just a part and I knew that could involve service overseas.
What one thing best prepared you for your ministry?
Ian – ‘I think going out on short-term mission to India for a summer was very helpful preparation because I was immersed in another culture. I came back with a strong sense that it had affirmed my call overseas, but not particularly to India. My interest was more toward East Asia and increasingly toward church planting and Bible teaching.’
Anne-Marie – ‘The international student work I mentioned earlier and later a year with Youth for Christ which helped me realise that working as part of a team could be a challenge, but could bring good things as well. It wasn’t necessarily going to be plain sailing.
Studying at All Nations Christian College alongside Ian was a great time of learning, knowing God’s word better and preparing for cross-cultural ministry in particular.
What was the most challenging part of the journey into long-term missions?
Ian – ‘Family. As I went back home after graduation, my family, who were not Christians, felt I should be using my degree from Cambridge to get a good job, not be going off to be a missionary. As they saw it, I was throwing away a valuable education and great career prospects.’
‘Another challenge was that we were planning to serve in the Philippines, but while we were in Singapore for the Orientation Course for new workers there was the People Power revolution which removed President Marcos.
At the time it wasn’t clear what the outcome would be. I remember in the midst of that getting a postcard from Rose Dowsett (a former OMF worker and prolific speaker and author), saying ‘we’re praying for you, especially in case you have to accept designation to another country.’
As it was, the demonstrations ended peacefully, but it could have ended quite differently. The situation and receiving the card affirmed that, no, actually we really should be heading for the Philippines. When we arrived in the Philippines it seemed like everyone was actually euphoric!
How can someone know they’re being called to long-term missions?
Ian – More often I’ve been encouraging people to look at whether you’re called to world mission as a live option. I often feel people aren’t even considering going long-term as a possibility for them. So it’s very difficult for God to move them in that direction because they’re only focused on ‘normal career choices. Could God be calling you to take that career overseas? Or even people called into the ministry; they’re only being presented with British ministry options, and if they feel a calling to minister God’s word, why would only be in the UK?
I would say to people: explore that possibility, really bring it before the Lord, if you’re going to pursue it and make life changing decisions then you do need to be sure it’s right, but look at it seriously. Go on a short-term trip, figure out what it would mean, look at it as a serious live option rather than thinking ‘God absolutely has to turn my life around before I’ll even think about it’!
Anne-Marie– Begin praying for another part of the world. Whether it’s taking somebody’s individual prayer letter, doing prayer apps, getting prayer material from a particular region. Just realising the world is the Lord’s and everything in it and realising he wants us to be concerned for the whole world, not just the place we are.
Again, in opening ourselves to cross-cultural things, being aware of those who are from different cultures and backgrounds around us and praying for opportunities to relate to them. Often God can point in that direction because he gives us an excitement in doing that.
Will you pray for those on the journey to long-term missions?
Give thanks for Ian and Anne-Marie and how God led them to long-term missions.
Pray for others whose parents may not be supportive of their decision to consider long-term missions. Pray for wisdom, discernment and godly advice to follow.
Pray for more people to consider long-term missions as a real option for their futures.