Called to be missionaries -- at 60+

By Gina Grate Pottenger
Friday, July 7, 2017

Bill and Theresa* never imagined that after 35 years of pastoral ministry, and sending off their own daughter and her family to be Nazarene missionaries, that they would hear God calling them to cross-cultural missions, too.

ImageToday, the couple have been serving with Nazarene Global Mission for about a year.  They are providing support and leadership development for the South Asia Field, and living in Sri Lanka.

“We had been in our last pastorate seven and a half years, and started feeling the stirring of the nest,” Theresa said. The couple assumed God was preparing them to move and pastor another church. They waited to see what God was doing.

Meanwhile, they visited their daughter, Shannon, with her husband Josh, and their children in Spain, where they were serving as Nazarene missionaries at the time. Josh encouraged Bill to consider volunteering to teach some theological education classes to Nazarenes in Spain through European Nazarene College during a sabbatical.

Bill and Theresa signed up to attend a Cross-Cultural Orientation weekend, which is required of potential volunteers before they are sent out on cross-cultural service. They were surprised that during the training, they felt God drawing them toward long-term mission. During the closing interview with a former missionary, they were told, “You could do so much more than just volunteer. We need you on the mission field.”

“When the missionary said that, the Lord just grabbed my heart in such a way I couldn’t speak,” Theresa said. “I waited to hear what Bill would say. Bill said, ‘If God calls us, we will go.’” 

At the ages 62 and 63, they answered God’s call with a “yes!”

Theresa had originally sensed a missionary call when, as a child, she gave her life to Christ. Yet, she resisted that call until she was 16 years old. During a worship service at a Nazarene World Youth Congress, which was a global convention for Nazarene youth, Theresa submitted to whatever God would ask her to do in her life. With that final consecration, she fully expected God to send her into missions.

But God led her to a life of pastoral ministry with Bill in the U.S.

Yet, now that decision as a teenager to go wherever God would send her made the decision easy when the door opened to Sri Lanka. Arthur Snijders, director of the Eurasia Region, and Annemarie Snijders, missional assistant, were seeking mature pastors and leaders to provide support and development for leaders in Eurasia. They invited Bill and Theresa to serve on the South Asia Field.

When they announced their resignation and missionary call to their local church, Gateway Church of the Nazarene in Murrieta, CA, the congregation was excited to become a sending church – sending their own pastor family into global missions.

A number of young people thanked the couple for showing them it was possible to go into cross-cultural mission later in life, Theresa said.

“They had this idea that, if they don’t go to the mission field as a young person, they’ll never go to the mission field. That was the idea. It was encouraging to them to think, ‘I could still have some years of preparation.’ So I think that was a positive  blessing.”

ImageBased out of Colombo, Bill and Theresa serve the whole South Asia Field, which includes Nazarenes in Pakistan, Nepal and  Sri Lanka.

Bill has been working with the leaders of Nazarene Compassionate Ministries to help further develop this indigenous ministry in Sri Lanka and Nepal.  He has also visited Pakistan and is helping two churches there to be built this year.  Bill has also been working with regional and field leadership to organize a new pastor education program for the field; it is now a 10-Percent Giving Special for Nazarene churches who want to give. 

Theresa takes care of the mission finances and works in the office.  She also serves with M+Power, Eurasia Region’s volunteer missions program, and is currently mentoring volunteers.  She is working on a shipment of children’s books which will be delivered to each of the Sri Lankan child development centers.  Where there is a need for support in ministry, she serves.

The couple enjoys working in the Eurasia Region along with Shannon and her family.

“It’s been a role reversal,” Bill said. “I’m not the dad anymore. Shannon knows far more about missions than I do.”

-- Last names omitted for security reasons.