By: Dr. Fred Van Gorkom, CVM Africa Director
Let me tell you about my wife, Vicki, and I’s good friend Patti. Our friendship began in 1983, when I went to Ethiopia. One of the things she said to me upon meeting was, “Hi! My name is Patti. Our family wants to support a missionary long term. We want a lifetime friendship, not just a year or two. What do you think?” Over all these years our friendship, and their partnership has never wavered. God used friends like this family and many more, to bless us through the years as we serve.
Two years after I began serving in Ethiopia the Lord brought my future wife Vicki to the country as well. In our time overseas we have many fond memories and experiences. Vicki always says that I first told her I loved her while we autopsied a dead cow! We fell in love while serving, we raised 4 kids in the bush, and were honored to be part of the team God used to plant churches among the people groups of southwestern Ethiopia. Now we are blessed to mobilize others to serve in the Lord in even more countries and ministries. Through all of this God has faithfully provided for all of our needs through friends like Patti’s family for 34 years and counting.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he should deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” He commanded, “Go into all the world, preach, teach, disciple.”
But what if you don’t get to go in person? What if you are called to serve in your own community but want to still partner with ministry happening overseas?
Then you help others to go as He enables you; help send, equip, encourage, and pray. Invest in what God is doing through calling others. When you partner with those who go you see prayers answered and your own prayer life grows. You are able to see what God brings them through and your own faith grows too! You see life from a different perspective and your troubles diminish in comparison. You lay up treasure in heaven, forever—instead of temporary things on earth. Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to keep what he can never lose!”
I recently talked to a friend of one of our CVM field staff and he shrugged, “Ok, we can do $100/month to support her. That’s easy. That’s just one night out, once a month.”
Mark visited East Africa and came back claiming, “We need a vet for the people there!” In God’s timing, we already had one family raising support to go. Mark was such a blessing and provided matching funds, and now the family has launched into ministry in East Africa. God used Mark’s partnership to help move His kingdom forward.
A church leader flew half way around the world to encourage us and pray with us while in Ethiopia and we were so blessed! Another time, a man named Tim came to paint our missionary house. No matter that his size 13 foot went in the paint bucket once; he was a blessing and a joy. Another blessing was that my sister’s church sent a 5-gallon bucket full of thoughtful gifts for Christmas each year and they were delivered by hand to Ethiopia!
My mom and dad duplicate about 50 copies of our most recent prayer letter and to this day, at age 93, my mom hands them out after church the next Sunday. Who’d decline? “Of course I’ll take one!”
Some supporters sent care packages. (Did you know you can enclose one unsweetened KoolAid in a normal letter and not even have to add postage? Made our water taste better!) While others are prayer warriors! We could almost tell when we hadn’t written for a while and the prayer support waned. Things started going more whacko than usual! Doctors half the world away consulted on medical issues. Veterinarians scratched their heads with us over diseases that aren’t even in the textbooks yet.
And when we came home for furlough some ministry partners even loaned us a car; twice we were even loaned an RV. Many hosted us in their homes; one church provided the Lazarus House—resurrected from being condemned so they could use it for missionaries. A dentist fixed our teeth for free; a doctor only charged what insurance would cover. Once when we visited the States, one of our supporters, Ann, sent us on a scenic railroad trip and then our supporter Mary took us to the zoo.
As we have served over the years, both in Ethiopia and here in the states we have been so blessed by our ministry partners that support us! They have even influenced my prayer letter writing. Patti once reproved me, “Fred, stop writing like everything is always rosy; we all know it’s not true. Be real. Then we know how to pray.”
So, if you can’t go or are not called to serve overseas then invest in the work God is doing through others. There are many ways to be a part of the ministry that is happening around the world! Your partnership may be financial, but please pray, encourage, write, send care packages, loan your car, share your guestroom, and champion the ministry—you are a part of it!
Want to hear more from Fred and Vicki? Visit their webpage and sign up for their prayer letter!