Our Work is Worship and Mission
A Couple Working in East Asia share their Global Marketplace Multiplier stories
Neither of us would have ever seen this coming when we were young, but we now live and work in East Asia among a people quite different from us — and it has become like home. I (Belle) grew up as a pastor’s kid but had not thought of moving globally. Then, I had a family member who began working in Asia; “I’d like you to join me and be a teacher.” I had no experience in education and had not completed my degree with the thought of moving halfway around the world. However, due to the request and influence of this family member, I did end up moving and discovered I had a gift for languages. I also fell in love with living cross-culturally. I can tell you one thing: it is never boring!
When I (Eli) was growing up in the Midwest of the United States, I remember seeing airplanes go by and I just had this feeling: I want to go somewhere else, just like the people on those planes. I had the call to go. Practically speaking, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. Still, I never would have guessed where I’d end up.
After we were married, we began to tell God, “We’ll go anywhere and teach.” Of course, when you get a job offer in another country, it’s time to prove whether you meant that or not. In a way, we had to decide, “Is God sovereign or not?” We had to have confidence that this was what He prepared for us. We began to have the conviction that there was truly no place we couldn’t go if we believed God’s sovereignty. So, we ended up moving.
We’ve seen God move during our time overseas. I (Eli) was teaching 4th grade and there was a young girl who came to know the Lord through our connection in that class. She was so eager to learn about God. She began reading about when Jesus says to go into your prayer closet. She was so confused. She came to us all worried, saying, “I don’t have a closet in my house, how can I pray?” I was able to explain to her that the idea was just to pray in private — not out in the market, so that everybody sees you showing off. Instead, you’re doing it alone because you’re in a one-on-one conversation with God. After that conversation, she would go under her desk in her room because she felt like she was super alone with God. We thought this was so beautiful.
One woman who saw our family in private began to ask questions about our faith because we lived differently than she had seen before. Through those conversations, she became a believer. She is highly active in her faith today, and all in her family have become followers of Jesus. She is what they call a “doorkeeper” in their church here, which is a key role in the house church. Because the church here is underground, we don’t go to visit those churches. We kind of stand out, so it has never been safe for us to just kind of show up where their groups are meeting — it could become dangerous for our local friends. However, we have had the opportunity to mentor and guide the leaders.
Some potential Global Marketplace Multipliers might not consider themselves to be well-trained. But in a place like this, you have a lot more to offer than you think, when it comes to guiding newer Christians and young leaders who haven’t had the Christian background or education we’ve had. It is a humbling experience.
I had a teaching assistant who was already a believer, but I (Eli) noticed he had not really been mentored and didn’t have anyone to go over scriptures with him right out of college. We began meeting to go in depth into the Bible, because he couldn’t go to seminary here. Later, he became a house pastor and a vibrant and beloved leader. Unfortunately, he died tragically young, but not before he made a tremendous impact in his short life.
At one point I (Eli) went to — for lack of a better term, what I would call a “house seminary” — where they were training local pastors to go out to the rest of the country. The goal for these students was to go back to their area of the country to train other pastors. It was kind of like a seminary for seminaries on the go. It was so inspiring to think of the ripple effect I could have. I was investing in a few leaders in such a small setting, but multiplied out all over the place, in ways I could never even track (and of course the government couldn’t track either, that was the point). And I could do all of this because of my day job. They don’t give seminary professors or missionaries visas in this country, but I receive one for my job, which is all above the board and approved by the country.
We have discovered that your vocation must bring value to the locals in this country. If it doesn’t bring value, they don’t need you, and you can get deported. We’ve seen it. But those who come and intentionally add value to the local economy, to the needs of the community (in a way that improves it daily), are the ones that are trusted to stay here long term. And it’s not just to “get in.” The actual work is worship, the work is mission, it’s not just a means to an end.
The world is very connected now. It is a global market. In our work we meet nationals and expats that are here doing business from all over the world. In almost every way, the economy is what drives the world. You have people that are going to be teachers, or work for factories, or work at Procter and Gamble, LG, Sony, Ericsson, Buick, or other international companies. A number of those people are Christians who move all over the world. And here’s the thing, as soon as they get off the plane, they automatically have a seat at the table in people’s minds. They’re respected because they’re an expert in their profession.
When people find out about our jobs, they automatically have some respect for us, and people listen. (Of course, when we open our mouths, we better have something good to say.) We can influence them because of our professions. And it’s through that relationship when we’re drinking coffee, or sharing a meal, or going for a walk, or just going about our daily lives, we have an opportunity to influence them for Christ.
We hope others will take up the call to move to a country that needs their witness for God. We hope people will consider how their profession might be how God calls them there. We hope people will realize the ways they can bless other people with their work and will build eternal relationships because of it.
Belle Warsavage is a Teacher in East Asia and loves to spend time with nationals sharing and encouraging them. Eli Warsavage is a principal of a school in East Asia and serves on the Global Marketplace Multiplier team of Global Partners.
*Names and identifying information have been changed or omitted in this article.