I wrote the following letter this past January, and in early February, emailed it to many friends and supporting churches. I thought it would be good to post it as a journal, too, so here it is. (Please note: I am surrounded by beautiful spring weather now...so please overlook the references to a 'snowy' Valley Forge!)
Ephesians 1: 11-12 "In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory..."
Warmest greetings to you from a snowy Valley Forge, Pennsylvania! I hope that this letter finds you well in every way.
I write to share a few things, and provide you with an update regarding what’s going on in my life right now. Most of all, I wanted to write to say thank you – thank you for your on-going support, prayers, and love for me and the ministry to which God has called me…! Thank you! (This letter is a little longer than I anticipated, so please read it when you have the time.)
As many of you know, in October of 2012 I returned to the USA for my regularly scheduled deputation with American Baptist International Ministries. From October through April, 2013 I spoke at a number of churches from Colorado to Massachusetts. During this time God also opened the door for me to begin an MS degree in “Organizational Dynamics” at the University of Pennsylvania. After almost 15 years in Thailand, I was really yearning for fresh insights, and eager to develop new skills. This degree combines coursework in organizational psychology and organizational development, and it’s just been perfect in terms of what I’ve been longing to study. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be back in school and feel that it’s already bearing fruit in many ways.
I worked in Thailand throughout the summer of 2013 and returned to the USA last September for another period of deputation - in order to continue my studies, and speak on behalf of the New Life Center Foundation. It was during this time that I learned about a new ‘discernment process’ taking shape at International Ministries. Here is a little background related to this process…
Jesus’ command to make disciples of all peoples kindled a fire in the hearts of Ann and Adoniram Judson 200 years ago. The Judsons, among the first missionaries to be commissioned and sent from the U.S., arrived in Burma (now known as Myanmar) in 1813. This extraordinary, pioneering work led Baptists in the United States to come together as a national movement, and form the mission organization now known as American Baptist International Ministries. For two centuries, God has graciously sustained IM and used it as an instrument to advance the mission of Jesus Christ. Today, IM now stands at a pivotal and historic juncture as it enters its third century of mission and we are seeking a fresh vision of how we will serve the mission of Jesus Christ for the future. This is the main goal of the new discernment process which we’ve entitled “Responding to the Call”.
So at this point you might be thinking: well, this is great, Karen! But what does it have to do with you?
Here’s the connection. In part because I am currently based in the United States, I was invited to join the staff of International Ministries and take a leading role in this discernment process. After praying about this opportunity for several months, I felt that God was indeed calling me to do this. The opportunity to participate in this extraordinary process (from global conversations with hundreds of IM stakeholders to the actual articulation of a fresh vision for the work of IM) is profoundly humbling and exciting for me. I am grateful for, and look forward to, what God is and will be doing in our midst.
This is fantastic, but it does affect my role at the New Life Center Foundation.
First, even though I am now officially a staff member of International Ministries, I am still retaining my missionary status. The plan is to spend about 80% of my time in my new role, and dedicate at least 20% of my time towards the continued support of the New Life Center Foundation. The latter includes staff support, grant writing, and public relations. I will remain involved in this ministry and continue to provide consultation to the staff there. However, I will no longer be working as the NLCF’s “program director”; my new title is NLCF “program consultant”.
In light of these changes, the board of directors of the NLCF is requesting that International Ministries send another missionary who would work there in a senior leadership role. This missionary would provide day to day English language support and assistance, write grants, secure funding for continued programming, and assist the NLCF’s national director in leading the program. (There are several ways that this could all be managed and worked out, and I’d ask for your prayers regarding this sensitive transition.)
Second, when this special discernment process is complete and the operational plan rolls out in early 2016, I may return to full-time missionary service. I am fully confident that God will continue to call and guide me into the role He has for me in the future; for now, I am thrilled to be a part of this extraordinary, once in a lifetime, third century of mission discernment process!
As I move into this new combination of mission tasks for the next two years, I will continue to need partners in prayer and giving. I would love to continue to count on your support! In fact, you do not need to change anything about the way you have been giving to International Ministries for my support in order to walk with me through this change. I will need even more prayer for discernment and wisdom in my new responsibilities, but the larger mission remains the same: to glorify God in all the earth, by crossing cultural boundaries to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
Please don’t hesitate to call me (610-768-2303) and/or write (Karen.firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions about any of this. I would be delighted to talk with you. As always, please let me know how I can pray for you.
And finally, I’d like to close this letter by saying another thank you. Your support has enabled me to respond to God’s call in my life and do ministry in Thailand. The past 15 years have been the most challenging and the most richly satisfying in my life. I love the staff and residents of the New Life Center Foundation more than I can possibly express, and will enjoy continuing to stay involved there. I thank you for your continued support in my new ‘hybrid’ role, and I look forward to keeping in touch with you.
International Ministries, P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0851