Missionary Interviews #2 – Daniel and Stephanie Dias

      Thank you, Daniel and Stephanie, for taking your time to answer these questions! I am so glad that  I was able to interview you all.

How long have you been serving?

              We have been in West Africa since April 2008.
 
Where have you served?
              We originally went to West Africa to work in Guinea – Conakry.  Our goal was always to work in church planting but our mission asked us to help with a service ministry, a ministry that assists church planting.  The ministry was to help new missionaries arriving on the field.  We were new missionaries ourselves, but we decided to give a few years to this ministry.  We were there for only 17 months before leaving to have our third son.  We were still planning on returning, but two weeks after our depart there were political problems in the capital, where we were located.  Our mission asked all the missionaries in the capital to move to Dakar, Senegal.  Senegal is just North of Guinea.  A few months later, our mission board asked us to relocate to Dakar to keep doing the same ministry we were doing in Conakry. After much prayer we accepted, saying that we were going to give this ministry two more years.  Afterward, we wanted to pursue church planting.  After one year in Dakar, we reminded our mission board of our desire and they informed us that it would most likely be delayed since they needed to do People Group Assessment (PGA).  Our mission board has a focus in church planting and they use PGA to find out where the priorities are in a given area.  So PGA involves a lot of traveling, investigating, and visiting with local believers.  Our mission board was waiting to find a single person who could do this ministry.  We offered to work with it for the second year in Dakar since at that time there were no single missionaries available. We ended up traveling 7,000 miles in about 4 months, visiting 7 West African countries.  By the end, we had a list of the people groups that our mission board considered a priority and among them was the Bolon in Burkina Faso.  Since 2013 we have been in Burkina Faso, learning the local language of wider communication (Jula), getting to know the local church community, and preparing to live among the Bolon.  We just finished building our house in a Bolon village this last January. 
 
When did you first feel that you were called to be a missionary and how did that lead into what you are doing now?
              I (Daniel) was born into a missionary family.  My parents worked for 12 years with a small people group in Northeast Brazil.  By the time I was 12 years-old we had already moved to another region and my parents were helping a small church in the countryside.  My parents were always involved in raising the awareness of the local church concerning Missions.  We went with a group from our small church to a mission conference at the New Tribes Bible School where we watched a video about missionaries in Papua New Guinea.  They learned the language of a people group and gave them the Gospel.  One of the new believers asked the missionaries how long they had known the message.  Upon learning that the missionaries had known it for a long time, the new believers asked why it had taken so long to come and give them this Good News.  I then felt convicted of our responsibility, as the Church of Christ, to go and give them the Gospel.  Ever since that moment, my life has been geared towards church planting.  Every decision I have made has had the goal of reaching the unreached. 
              I (Stephanie) knew that God was leading me into missions around the age of 14.  I had a heart for missions, specifically the unreached people groups of the world.  I also knew that God has given me an ability to learn languages easily.  I prayed to be used wherever He would lead me.  I pursued a degree in elementary education since I figured I’d be homeschooling my children one day and it was during my time in college that God began to open doors for missions.  Through an MK friend, I learned about New Tribes Mission and their philosophy of missions.  This same MM also introduced me to my “future” husband.  After learning that my husband had a heart for Africa, we headed in that direction.  We studied French in Quebec, Canada and then raised support before leaving for West Africa.
 
What does your job entail?
              Our mission has the goal of establishing strong, bible literate, indigenous churches.  As church planters, we have to learn the language and the culture of our target people group in order to effectively communicate the story given in the Bible.  Once we reach a high level of communication ability we start working with literacy, teaching the people group how to read and write in their own language.  We then translate the Bible verses that will be used in Bible teaching, prepare the lessons, and start the teaching phase of our ministry.  Our mission board works with a chronological teaching program that teaches the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  Once the teaching is done, we then start the translation of the rest of the Bible, hopefully now with the help of our brothers and sisters who recognized Jesus as their savior during the teaching time. We then go through the other phases of teaching that will expose the new believers to the entirety of the Bible story.
 
How do you think that your specific role in missions is especially important?
              We have the opportunity to present the Word of God to people in their heart language.  It is through the truth of His Word that the Holy Spirit uses to convince people “concerning sin, godliness, and judgment” (John 16:7-11). 
 
Do you have a story about how you have seen God work through your role?
              Although we are at the very beginning of our church planting ministry, we have had the opportunity to serve the local church everywhere we have been and it has been a blessing to be able to share more of the truths of the Bible everywhere we go.  The lack of knowledge of what the Bible says is widespread.  Although many people see Jesus as their Savior, some do not understand what that truly means.  We have had the opportunity to see people learn more of who they are in Jesus and see them be set free from fears that used to control their lives.  While learning Jula, I was talking to my language teacher about God.  He was a new believer and did not know much of what the Bible teaches.  I was explaining that although God is spirit, not having a physical body, He is not like the spirits his people worship and fear. I told my teacher that God is Eternal and the spirits only immortal.  He only understood the difference when I said that God does not have a birthday, that He was never born.  He was amazed by that because until then he thought that God was stronger than the other spirits but didn’t know why. We pray that we will see much of this among the Bolon in the future.
 
What training did you have to take for your job? (college degrees/ classes/ working with people on certain things)
              I (Daniel) went to Bible School, Missionary Training School, and Linguistic School as preparation to work as a church planter with New Tribes Mission.  The training took four and a half years.
              I (Stef) attended a Christian University so I didn’t have to do New Tribes Bible School. Even though Daniel had already completed NTM training, we had to do the missions training together as a couple.  Then we were placed into the advanced linguistics program where we spent a semester in Oklahoma studying Cherokee. 
 
What tips would you give a young person or anyone who is interested in this role? 
              You should ask God to search your heart and confirm your calling.  If you’re sure of God’s leading, then go forward, trusting God to open doors at the right time. He always does. There are some missions who do “vision” trips where you can visit the field before deciding where to serve.  Those trips can be helpful.
 
Is there any way that we can pray for you and the area you work in?
              Yes! There is a continual growing presence of Jihadist activity in our country and it’s creeping closer and closer to our village.  Pray for safety for the missionaries in the area and for wisdom for our team as we serve God in this new reality.
 
 
 
 
Other posts in this series…
 
 
 
 

Missionary Interviews #1 – David and Zoe

 

   I was so excited when I found out that I would be able to interview David and Zoe*.  I appreciate their insightful and helpful answers! This is the first missionary interview in the series, so, let’s begin…

How long have you been serving?

   We have been serving in missions for 18 months.

Where have you served?

   We have been serving in Western Asia.

When did you first feel that you were called to be a missionary and how did that lead into what you are doing now?

   I first felt called to be a missionary in my mid-20’s when I took the course, “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.”  I learned from a number of missionaries throughout the course about God’s heart for the nations and the various roles in the Great Commission and also the various organizations there are in missions.  Currently, I’m a church-planter serving in an unreached country that is only 0.005% evangelical Christian.

What does your job entail?

   There are a number of aspects to my job.  I’ll arrange it sequentially.  Firstly, in order to be a missionary full-time, I needed to raise financial support.  My wife and I spent over a year meeting with individuals and churches sharing the calling God had on our lives and the opportunity to partner with us financially and answer questions people had.  Once we departed for the field, we had to set up our lives and adapt to the new culture.  So we were (and are) learning and thinking about how the common person lives and how we are to adapt accordingly.  Next, we began (and are continuing) to learn the native language.  This takes years to accomplish and varies based on the difficulty of the language.  Our desire is to become proficient enough to communicate the gospel without significant barriers to understanding the message.  Furthermore, our job is to preach and share the gospel.  Once people believe, our job is to disciple, equip, train, and gather believers.  It’s incredibly important that we raise up national leaders so that the church can grow and multiply through the native people. As the church grows and matures, we are to discern when to fully hand over leadership to nationals.  Once that takes place, we come alongside the church and offer support and encouragement in order that it may truly be an indigenous church.

How do you think that your specific role in missions is especially important?

   All people play an important role in the church and in the great commission.  Church planting among unreached people groups is especially important though because people in our country do not have access to the gospel and Jesus told us to go to the ends of the earth.  People are born, live and die without hearing about Jesus in some parts of the world.  Therefore, it’s vital that missionaries bring the gospel to them that they may be saved by placing their faith in Christ.  Further, we don’t see that our job is complete until those people who do come to faith by our evangelism are gathering and are worshipping in the context of a church.  We don’t want to simply lead them to faith and then move on, but rather see them worshipping with other believers and recognizing that they are an essential part of the body of Christ in the context of a local church.

Do you have a story about how you have seen God work through your role?

   We are in the early phases of church planting, but have seen God begin to plant seeds with our language helpers and teachers.  Just recently, my wife began meeting with my teacher from my language school at a local university for private tutoring.  My teacher said that she knows whether or not a student is a missionary within a matter of minutes of meeting them based on the expression on their face and their attitude.  She said that she just notices a difference in their life.  However, this is the first time she has ever had a missionary student in her home for tutoring.  We have been explaining the gospel to her, and she said it’s the first time she has been able to understand the joy that missionaries have in their heart.  We are thankful for all of those faithful missionaries who shined the light of Christ.  We are hoping to see by the fruit of their lives and ours, along with our words, that she comes to faith in Christ. 

What training did you have to take for your job? (college degrees/classes/working with people on certain things)

   I went to seminary and received a master of divinity degree.  However, it was not absolutely essential that I get the degree in order to do my job, but I highly recommend biblical education.

What tips would you give a young person or anyone who is interested in this role? 

  1. Pray. I recommend the book Operation World.  It’s a prayer guide for all the nations.  You can learn a lot about the world through that book, pray accordingly, and God may prompt your heart to a particular field.
  2. Prepare to be challenged.  Missions is a very difficult job (but incredibly rewarding as well) and people need to be ready upfront for a challenge.  Life is full of challenges, especially for those who serve the Lord in ministry.  It’s His way of molding and shaping us to be like Jesus.
  3. Serve in ministry in your own context.  It’s important that you learn how to minister in your own culture and language before attempting to do it in a foreign one.
  4. Talk with your pastor before you seek to go to the field.  Having their support and blessing is crucial.  Unfortunately, some pastors in the US don’t have a heart for missions, and if that is the case, it may be more difficult to get to the field or have their blessing.
  5. Take your English grammar classes seriously. It sounds like strange advice, but if you have to learn another language, it’s helpful to know your own language and how it works really well.  It will benefit you when you study a foreign language eventually.
  6. Study your Bible.
  7. Read missionary biographies and texts for ideas and encouragement.

Is there any way that we can pray for you and the area you work in?

   Pray as we continue to the learn the language in Western Asia.  We really long to be proficient in the language so that many can clearly share the good news and eventually plant a church.

 

   David and Zoe have a great task before them. Please take a moment to pray that the Lord will give them the strength and perseverance to continue the job which He has given them – to make His name great.

*These are pseudonyms for security reasons. 

Introduction to Missionary Interviews 

 

Missionary Interviews – Introduction

   Missionary Interviews will be a series where I will … (you guessed it) interview missionaries. There are so many different jobs that missionaries do. There are translators, nurses, pilots, mechanics, and even computer programmers who serve God by using the skills they have. And, when one is looking at the career options within missions, it can be quite overwhelming.

The neat thing is that God has given us specific gifts and talents which will equip us to complete the task/job He has planned for us to do.

Why Am I Doing Missionary Interviews?

If you are like me, you have (or when you were younger) flip-flopped between what “I want to be when I grow up” many times. For me, though, I have always known that whatever my profession was, I wanted to be a missionary.

So, I thought that it would be a great idea to interview different missionaries and see how they serve God in a specific area. Also, I would like to discover how they came to know what God wanted them to do for Him.

Now, I understand that God has called us to do His work in many shapes and forms. For some, it may be mission work. But, for others, God may have called them to be a light shining through the darkness in their neighborhood, workplace, or school.

Even if you do not feel called to be a missionary, I would like to encourage you to still read the Missionary Interview posts. It is always beneficial to learn about how God is working all around the world.

What Exactly Will Missionary Interviews Be Like?

For the Missionary Interviews, I will be asking different missionaries questions about what they do, why they believe their job is important in missions, what kind of training they needed for that job, etc. I will also ask them to share their “missionary journey story” and tell about how they were called into missions.

I am so very excited about this new series and can’t wait to start! 

Posts in this series…

#1 – David and Zoe: Church Planters

For His Great Name
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