When Rev. Jong-Kook Park, his wife Grace (Eunhye) and their children, Tony (Daesun) and Anna (Jeeyeon), arrived at OMSC in 1999, they could not have imagined how much their lives were about to change. On a visit to OMSC in July 2017, Jong-Kook and Grace paused to reflect on how important their OMSC furlough was to their family.
In 1988 two novice missionaries commissioned by the Philippine Wesleyan church ventured to Africa to serve at Zimba Mission Hospital. As enthusiastic young doctors, Romeo (Romy) and Linda were full of energy and were able to connect well with Zambian patients. But when the HIV/AIDS epidemic hit Zambia, their energy and resources were tested.
As Romy affirms, “In the beginning, we thought we were able to match the immense health needs of the people. But when the HIV/AIDS epidemic peaked in that country, it was beyond belief to see so many people dying every day. There was very little that we could do.”
They completed their first term as medical missionaries exhausted, and with serious concerns about whether they could make a difference in the lives of the people they were serving. During their first furlough they asked themselves the tough question, should they continue?
Known for its natural beauty and tea plantations, Assam province is located in northeast India. Created while the country was under British rule, this area is known around the world for its tea production. Referred to as the Tea Tribes, many of the people who live here are descended from the original tea plantation workers. With religious traditions including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Animism, and challenges such as elephant stampedes and a lack of financial resources, is it possible to be a Christian missionary here?
It had been a really frustrating time for Executive Assistant Pamela Sola. As the person responsible for preparing visa papers for OMSC’s international visitors, she took visa denials personally. Most of those who applied for the study program had received visas and were already attending the seminars. But there was one application that had been denied. At community worship Pam asked everyone to pray that the visa would be granted. After making this request, a missionary from Guinea-Bissau pulled her aside and said, “I don’t think you should have made that prayer request.”
Could friendship be a Christian witness in a Muslim community? For Martins, a 2008-09 resident at OMSC, that question came out of a real life situation. Martins is a Christian missionary living in a predominantly Muslim community in Nigeria. He applied for a sabbatical at OMSC in order to have an opportunity to become both physically and spiritually invigorated for his ongoing work, and to meet new friends who challenged his Christian life. Blessed with a personality that radiates joy, he makes friends easily. But, was befriending the son of a very wealthy Muslim chief testing the bounds of friendship?
It was the Fall of 2008 and Professors Sherwood and Judith Lingenfelter had been invited to be Senior Mission Scholars at OMSC. In this capacity they would act as mentors to a group of international missionaries and teach a one-week seminar on Leadership. During their four-month sabbatical they were also planning to do some research and reflection. So, how did their seminar for church leaders from Nigeria, Uganda, Madagascar, Palestine, India, Indonesia, Burma, and Korea lead to the birth of a new course in a doctor of ministry program?
They weren’t missionaries. They had very little overseas experience. They weren’t international. In fact, they were about as American as you can get – a family from the Midwest with three little girls. So why were they living at an intercultural center in New Haven, Connecticut, with Christians from Tanzania, Indonesia, Myanmar, and India?