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Where Are They Now? RMM asks REACH alumni: “What is your new mission, post-REACH?”

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A Homegrown Mission

By Beth Hooley

From December 2011 to August 2012, I lived on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand with a REACH team of five girls. While there, I had the privilege of working in a classroom for children with special needs among other ministry opportunities. Although I’d known I wanted to work with children with special needs before REACH, this experience showed me that it was something I would deeply enjoy, and it fueled the passion that God had placed in me years before.

Once I returned to the States, I wanted to keep the missional mindset that I had formed in REACH as I transitioned into being a college student. I reasoned that a person could be a missionary anywhere, as long as they were carrying out the mission God had placed on their life. Because of this, I chose to see my four years at college as a unique opportunity to be a missionary on a college campus, relating to college students in a way that no one outside of that time of life could. I was a student, but I was also on a mission: to reach my peers with the love of Christ. This underlying desire led to me become a Spiritual Life Assistant (similar to a Class Chaplain position) in the freshman dorm my sophomore and junior years, where my job description was simply to minister to the girls I lived with. I prayed for the girls, listened, mentored, and lived alongside them.

"God showed me that it is not a matter of where we serve him, but how... He wants us to serve him where he places us—to follow in obedience."When I had first returned from Thailand, I had a burning desire to go back and live there forever, serving God as a life-long missionary. I was under the impression that if a person wanted to “do missions” in a foreign country, God would inherently want them to do that as well. After all, doing missions abroad is the highest level of serving God, is it not? God showed me, however, that it is not a matter of where we serve him, but how. I realized that God’s calling for my life was different than I’d anticipated. He wants us to serve him where he places us—to follow in obedience his direction wherever that may be, doing what he has gifted us to do. I saw that my gift was working with children with special needs, and that he was leading me to live in the States and serve him there.

Looking forward, I don’t know what exactly that calling will look like. I don’t know if I will be a teacher or work with individuals with special needs in some other way. All I know is that God planted a seed in me that is growing into something beautiful and full of promise. My “mission” as I understand it today is to live in a small town in Iowa, serving people with special needs. More than that, I am beginning to have a vision, not only for those individuals with special needs but also for the families and loved ones surrounding them. I desire to impact all those I come into contact with, showing through my compassion that God’s love is for all people, regardless of physical or cognitive ability. I want my equal consideration for all people to show that God does not make mistakes and that we are all his children, deserving of care and respect.

My plea is this: do not think that the only way to be a missionary is to live in a far-off land doing exotic things. We are all missionaries, sent on individual missions by God to impact those around us. As it says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” My career may be in education and my hometown in the Midwest, but my purpose is much deeper than teaching academic curriculum. I am a missionary. I may not be sent by a mission organization, but I am sent by God, as we all are, to go and make disciples of all nations—including this one.

I have found in serving and teaching that I often learn more than I teach. I have learned so much from every child and adult with special needs that I have worked closely with. Each individual I have met represents a lesson that I can take with me for the future. In Thailand, Doom-Dam taught me that love speaks in all languages. In the States, Elliott taught me joy with his irresistible laughter. Brian, a man who suffered from a traumatic brain injury in college, taught me with his overwhelming optimism to never take a moment for granted. Ricky, an endearing young man who has had many reconstructive surgeries, taught me to never take anyone at face value. Claudia, a pre-teen who uses a wheelchair and has the gift of encouragement, taught me that no dream is too small or foolish. They all taught me that everyone communicates in some way, and everyone can love and be loved. Some of us just take a little extra time and effort to discover our personality, like unwrapping a Christmas present. We may strive for weeks and only see a peek of what’s inside, but I have found that it’s always worth the effort.

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Beth currently works at Camp Courageous of Iowa, a camp that serves kids and adults with special needs. She says: “Most times it doesn’t seem like a job because I love it so much!” In her free time, she enjoys reading books, playing guitar, and hanging out with babies. In the fall, she will begin her final year at Mount Vernon Nazarene University (near Columbus, OH), where she will receive her degree in special education. In May 2015, she plans to marry Daniel Sutter and move to Pella, Iowa. Daniel and Beth met in high school when both were counselors at Bible Memory Camp and they are looking forward to finding out how God wants to use them together in Pella.