April 18, 2023
Formed by Jesus
Developing new Alliance leaders through hands-on ministry
by Hannah Packard
According to Jesus’ Commission, the Body of Christ is called and compelled to make disciples. This is how the Kingdom grows. A significant part of the work of disciplemaking lies in the development of new leaders.
I recently had the opportunity to hear the experiences of three individuals who have worked with Envision, the specialized structure within Alliance Missions that works to identify and develop missional leaders through short-term missions opportunities and innovative ministry strategies. Envision is one of the most approachable points of entry to Alliance work; they provide excellent places for people, especially teens and young adults, to learn about Alliance Missions and be developed. Cassandra is an international worker serving with Envision Indonesia. Emily is a student at Toccoa Falls College (TFC) and completed an eight-week internship with Envision Bangkok during the summer of 2022. Mathias is currently an Envision intern serving for ten months at a a CAMA Services site in south Asia.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
Cassandra: I grew up in the C&MA when my parents helped start a church plant in Missouri. After graduating from Toccoa Falls College in 2011, I started working with Edgewater Alliance Church in the Alliance Southeast District as their youth director where I took students on yearly mission trips in-country and served our IW teams at two Field Forums. I am currently serving with Envision Indonesia as a representative of Fellowship Alliance Church in Columbia Falls, Montana. In all the places I have lived and served, there has always been a sense of family and community through the Church.
Emily: I’m originally from Waynesboro, Georgia, and I was very involved in my local church as I was growing up. Right before I went to high school, my family moved, which was a formative time for my walk with God. I began having a greater passion for missions and ministry.
When I toured Toccoa Falls (TFC), I didn’t know what The Alliance was. I told my parents on that trip, “There is something so peaceful about this place.” So, I went to TFC, and I have loved my time there. I’ve been given leadership opportunities, been challenged on my views of the world and God, and had people walk alongside me through difficult times. A huge part of my leadership development has been my view of God being so expanded—He’s so much bigger, so much more powerful, so much more loving, kind, and gentle than I ever imagined.
Mathias: My parents were international workers with The Alliance as I grew up, so “home” includes many places for me—South America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Each of these places has shaped me. In the United States, I make my home in Grove City, Pennsylvania, and after being there for three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have truly come to think of my community there and at Grove City Alliance Church as “home.”
He’s so much bigger, so much more powerful, so much more loving, kind, and gentle than I ever imagined.
How did you get involved with Envision?
Cassandra: I first heard about Envision in 2012 at a district meeting with the Alliance Southeast after I first started working with Edgewater Alliance Church. I didn’t go on an Envision trip until June 2018 when my church took a small group of students up to Envision Cleveland because of the work they were doing to minister to immigrants. Our state had experienced a mass influx of immigrants, so we were excited to learn how to better serve our new neighbors.
Years later, when I started looking at serving overseas, I came across a job posting with Envision Indonesia. The opportunity was too good to miss, and I’m so thankful GOd opened the door so I could serve with them.
Emily: I’m a cross-cultural adult education major with a minor in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), which requires a cross-cultural internship between our junior and senior years of college. I knew several people who had done their internships with Envision and loved it. I was looking through all the Envision sites, praying through it, and I felt God say, “Hey, don’t put pressure on yourself to find the perfect internship. Just choose somewhere, and I will bless you there.” And so, I went on my internship to Bangkok, Thailand. I worked with Tou Lee and Tang Thao, and they are amazing.
Mathias: My internship is in partnership with both Envision and CAMA. It came about as many things do in the Kingdom—through relationship. In 2019, I visited the country I am now living in, having felt called to explore potential ministry there. In the end, though, many things fell through, and I was left wondering why I had gone at all. But some years later, a dear friend in leadership with CAMA at the time invited me to explore with him what returning would look like. I was so excited! Eventually, he created a way for me to join some CAMA workers here as an intern with Envision. I am so grateful to God for providing a way back.
Tell me more about the work you did or are currently doing.
Cassandra: On the trip to Envision Cleveland, we did a lot of projects similar to other short-term mission trips, but there was much more continued training and development. The team at Envision Cleveland did a fantastic job of giving us knowledge and tools to use on the trip, as well as back home. We were able to pour into existing partnerships, support local churches, and help build more relational bridges in the city! We walked away knowing more about domestic missions, needs new immigrants in America have, and how the Church is equipped to meet those needs.
Right now, at Envision Indonesia, I am in language study and working on establishing relationships with new friends and neighbors as our team looks to partner with local churches and organizations. We have a Monday night English club which has gained a decent-sized crowd in the last several months. We host an event once a moth where we gather for fellowship and a variety of fun activities—karaoke, board games, holiday traditions, etc. After language school, I will be working with local churches and doing more ongoing partnership, as well as helping to host interns and teams who come to our site.
Emily: The three main things I did were to take part in the ministries of Deeper Life Church, which the Thaos lead, build relationships with the locals, and teach English. To help with my TESOL minor, Tou Lee sent out a message to the church offering free English tutoring, so I did that throughout the time I was there.
Mathias: My internship with CAMA and Envision feels unique—tailored for my location, experience, and gifts. The CAMA workers I have joined here do not have a formal program such as a church plant or English center and are free to grow relationships and ministry organically, seeking the Lord’s leading for how best to use their gifts and resources for the Kingdom. I have felt invited into this relational way of doing ministry—living in a local community, learning the language, and building relationships of my own.I’ve been connected to some key people and ministries, which I have been able to help through photography and writing to capture the amazing work they are doing. Our local church is an indigenous Alliance congregation and has seven daughter churches scattered all throughout our nation. I’ve been able to serve them by leading some Bible studies and visiting some daughter churches.
Being with Envision and CAMA has been a blessing—it feels like I get the “double portion” of having two ministry families caring for me! Envision is so well suited for short-term work and has been so good at arranging the practical sides of life abroad—fundraising, answering the ever-present questions I have, and spiritual support in the form of praying and checking on me. CAMA has also been amazing at creatively finding a way for me to serve in this nation. The CAMA workers have been so good at helping me in daily life here, as well as shaping a larger understanding of what a life of ministry overseas looks like.
I am called to live a life of formation under Jesus before anything else!
What have you learned about ministry—and your calling—through your experience with Envision?
Cassandra: Serving with Envision Cleveland felt like everything came together the way it should when the Church is doing what it should. Not everything was perfect, but life isn’t perfect. One way to see authenticity in the life of a believer, church, or organization is how they handle mistakes and work toward restoration. We saw this through the Envision Cleveland staff, the local partners, and our own team. That missions trip set the standard for how we can do better in our cities and around the world. My experience there showed me that if we can serve well and partner well in our own context—something we are not always prone to do in the United States—we can do it well overseas where the only option is to partner with other Kingdom-minded individuals or organizations.
Emily: I learned so much from Tou Lee and Tang and how they have plugged into their community in Thailand. I was so impressed by how Tou Lee gave so much ownership to the church body, to the Thai believers, and how he was leading them from behind. He pushed them toward Jesus, prayer, worship, and good rhythms. I was gaining a lot of skills that are helpful for daily life back home, learning to make evangelism and discipleship a part of my life and part of building relationships with people.
If I had to choose a specific thing God has developed in me, it would be empathy. I think I assumed development was me just getting a lot of great skills, especially some soft skills that are helpful for working with people and being flexible. But I never expected this new depth of empathy and of being willing to sit with people going through hard things to just be a listening ear.
Mathias: I feel that, in the difficulties of transitioning overseas, Jesus has been whispering to me what it means to depend on Him, to find a home in Him. To meet with Jesus is to come home, even in this foreign place. As I interact with my leaders and locals here, I am consistently reminded that ministry doesn’t only look like programs or “hourly work” but is most truly about relationships. We see this idea shine brightly in Jesus’ life. I feel challenged to change the way I view productivity within ministry, Yes, to count hours and projects and to meet practical needs, but also to consider a coffee with a friend, a meaningful conversation, or a simple kind deed as immeasurably valuable in the Kingdom.
This internship has been a huge part of an ongoing lesson that our first and highest calling list to be like Jesus, following Him. If I do good work and help many people but my life does not look like Jesus, my work will be meaningless. Though a calling to ministry or a certain country is definitely valid, this foundational calling of discipleship is key for each of us. As I consider doing work of my own in the future, I feel an urgency to keep Jesus at the center of all things, to resist the temptation to find my value in what I do for Him. I am called to live a life of formation under Jesus before anything else!
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Feature photo courtesy of Mathias