IMB returning missionaries: What next?

Originally published at Western Recorder –

Louisville—After 20 years on the field, Jeff and Kathy Deasy, missionaries to Narobi, Kenya, felt lead to take the Voluntary Retirement Incentive.

They are one couple out of many who have chosen to take the VRI offered by the International Mission Board as a first step to resolve the organization’s financial troubles.

“The goal of the plan is to offer as generous of a voluntary retirement incentive as possible, while honoring the years of service of those eligible and providing a smooth transition from personnel’s cur-rent role,” IMB’s website said.

The incentive was offered to all eligible staff and active, career missionaries age 50 and older with five or more years of service.

“When the VRI was announced, we really didn’t think we’d take it. We’re only in our 50s,” Kathy said.

“We probably would have never even considered returning to the states had this never happened, but God used this, I think, in our lives to get us where He wanted us at the right time.”

The Deasys were appointed to the field in 1995. They began their ministry as music missionaries in Brazil. They worked in Tanzania for a time before moving to Kenya to teach music at the Kenyan Baptist Theological College. Currently, they serve in missionary logistics in Narobi.

Factors that played into their decision to take the VRI was their health and the health of Jeff’s aging mother in a nursing care facility.

“This isn’t something we saw coming, hoped for, or even prayed for, but when we prayed about it, we just knew that this was God saying it’s time for you to move the home base back to America,” Kathy said. “Right now we are seeing that God is calling us back to America. How that’s going to play out, we don’t know. I’m put-ting out resumes. We still feel very called to stay in ministry. I would love to find a church where I could do music or administration and I’d love to find that in Kentucky, but we’re open to wherever God leads,” Jeff said.

“We feel like we are doing what the IMB needs to help the board move forward,” he said.

Kathy added, “If we can further the gospel by stepping off the field and moving our home base back home, then we need to be open to doing that, because the main thing is getting the gospel to the world. We know God will have a plan to work it all out for good.”

Barbara and Wayne Myers

Similarly Wayne and Barbara Myers, who have been on the field in Swaziland for 22 years, will be returning to the states.

They are Kentucky natives, graduates of Cumberland College (now University of the Cumberlands) and in their early 60s.

“We’ve lived in the bush, so to speak, for 22 years,” Wayne said.

His con-centration has been with the youth and adults while Barbara has focused on the children of Swaziland. Their central ministry has been church planting.

When they arrived, the country had three Baptist churches. Today, there are more than 35.

“I know it was very devastating for Wayne, because he loves his work; he loves the Swazi people. For me, I was surprised and hurt at first,” Barbara said.

“I think we are working through our emotions,” she continued. “I think now I’ve come to the point that I’m eager to see what the Lord is going to do next”

“We are wide open to whatever door the Lord might open, whether it be director of missions somewhere or pastor or some ministry,” Wayne said.

He added, “I’m not ready to retire, let’s see where the Lord wants us to be and what He wants us to do.

We’ll follow Him wherever He opens the door.”

“What next?” is a question facing Kentucky Baptists as these and other missionaries leave the field and return to the states.

What can Kentucky Baptists do next to help these Kingdom servants during their transition? Adapting “12 ways to assist returning Southern Baptist missionaries” by Chuck Lawless, Kentucky WMU has some sugges-tions to help Kentucky’s returning missionaries.

These proposed ways include practical things like prayer, lending a car or a guest oom, or providing financial support.

They also include providing ministry or other jobs for the missionaries returning home.

Another “next” step, according to Kentucky WMU, is to help ensure that this never has to happen again. Prayer, again, is key in this endeavor.

Supporting and implementing missions education so that the next generation understands the importance of missions is another way to help, said WMU Executive Director Joy Bolton.

Giving generously to the Cooperative Program through the local church and missions offerings as well as leading the church to increase giving also are key ways that Kentucky Baptists can do their part, Bolton urged.

“I don’t think you ever stop doing missions if you’re a missionary, but we’ll do it from there instead of from here,” Kathy said. (WR)