John and Jennifer Fischer (above) spent the past 16 years in East Asia sharing the Gospel of Christ with businessmen and the last 10 years mobilizing house churches to present the Gospel and disciple factory workers in a city of six million. The Fischers are supported by the International Mission Board (IMB) and were offered voluntary retirement in September as part of a restructuring program to stabilize the organization’s precarious financial position. This year’s World Mission Offering, known this year as Unstoppable Gospel: The Offering, will primarily fund missionaries with the IMB, a missionary sending agency affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, so that the message and love of Christ may continue to be spread throughout the world.
The Fischers were married at Houston’s First, but their careers took them to Dallas, where they discovered a love for short-term missions. In 1999, they left lucrative careers to go into full-time missionary service. John, a former international marketing executive, and Jennifer, a physician’s assistant, followed God’s lead and ultimately found a niche ministering to factory workers, primarily women living in company dormitories. The women left behind home and children to make a living in the city, returning to see their families only once each year.
"My white face got us in the door," said John. "I built relationships with the factory owners, asking to share the gospel with their employees and give them health and dental check ups. These owners weren’t Christians, but they never turned us away."
The couple worked hand-in-hand with local house churches, whose members would disciple and care for the workers. With a church planted, the Fischers were free to move to another factory to begin the process again. Among the 20-30 factory churches they started over the past 10 years, several thousand workers became Christians.
Chris and Jamie Suel were commissioned by Houston’s First in 2008 and began serving as missionaries to Kenya the following year, where they have served as church planters in Nairobi. Over the years, they discovered a strategic advantage in engaging university students, mobilizing and training them to reach the unreached in East Africa.
"There are fewer barriers when people are trained to reach out to those in their own culture," said Chris. "We provide vision, strategy and training, then we take them on mission."
The IMB funds living expenses for Chris, Jamie and their five children, ages 9 to 18. Morningstar, their Life Bible Study class, also offers moral support by writing them throughout the year, and sending e-mails and care packages to make birthdays special for the kids.
Two years ago in September, the Suels survived a terrorist attack at the Nairobi Mall. The family split up and hid as they listened to machine gunfire, exploding hand grenades and helicopters circling overhead. The family kept in contact by cell phone as terrorists tried to lure people out by pretending to be police. Eventually, Jamie and four of the children made it to safety. When Chris and a son moved to locate the rest of the family, they encountered a barrage of gunfire that ricocheted off their escalator. Two hours later the two safely joined the rest of the family.
The IMB sent the family home to the States to regroup the following summer. "It’s no cheap thing to send seven people to the U.S. for counseling," said Chris. "The IMB also provides living expenses, insurance, vehicles, gas for travel, even some scholarships to help our children attend college."
Chris notes that when the family returns to Kenya in February next year there will be fewer than 10 or 12 missionary families remaining in his regional "cluster." Just over 10 years ago, 100 families were on the field to minister in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and other East African nations.
Houston’s First members and friends have an opportunity in November, December and January to be differencemakers, extending generosity to people groups in the farthest reaches of the world by giving to Unstoppable Gospel: The Offering. The majority of the funds will go the International Mission Board to fund missionaries around the world.
Those who are not called to serve in foreign missions can give. "‘How can they go unless they are sent?’" said Chris. "The role of the sender is of equal importance with the one who goes."
Contributions to this special offering beyond our regular tithes will be distributed to the International Mission Board (85%), the North American Mission Board (10%), and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (5%) to support missionaries serving with each organization. The Offering is received from November 2015 to January 2016 and can be given one of four different ways: