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“Everything around me was Christian,” Andy* says. “My family was Christian, my friends were Christian, my school, my church, my everything—I was fully immersed in the bubble.”
Andy was in the “perfect” situation. Born and raised in the Midwest, he attended church his entire life and invited Jesus into his heart at age three. But he was stagnant. His story isn’t unlike many others.
“I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember,” Kara* shares similarly. “Growing up [in Central Asia], I would see my parents do ministry, and I would participate. But my faith was never my own.”
Born in the United States and raised in Central Asia and Thailand, Kara was a missionary kid, surrounded by ministry and the mindset of reaching out to other cultures with the good news of Christ. But Jesus wasn’t hers.
Andy and Kara’s stories remind us that it is God who works miracles in our hearts, not our upbringings.
One morning, during Andy’s freshman year at Cedarville, he was driving in heavy fog. He never saw the truck coming. The doctors scrambled but didn’t think he would survive. When they realized he would, they doubted he would be more mentally competent than an infant and would never be able to live on his own. But God healed his body, and to everyone’s shock, he made a full recovery.
“God used this event to literally and figuratively redirect my life,” Andy shares, “[and I realized,] you know, God probably wants me to do something with all the blessings He’s given me.”
When Kara was in high school, she went on a mission trip to Argentina because she wanted to make friends. Growing up as a third-culture kid, she didn’t have many. That’s when God opened her eyes. She realized, “I want a personal relationship with Christ and to live my life for Christ, and not have Him just be a miniscule part of my life.” Suddenly ministry wasn’t just her parents’ thing—it could be hers too.
But igniting Andy and Kara’s hearts for Him was only the first step. God had bigger plans for both of them.
During Andy’s senior year of college, he met a number of recruiters at Cedarville’s missions conference. Each one he talked to was excited about his IT major—they desperately needed his skills on the mission field. Andy realized God was trying to get his attention. When he came to Encompass’ booth, the mobilizer connected him with a missionary in Central Asia. When Andy spoke with the missionary, he felt settled in his heart. It was then he knew he was supposed to go to Central Asia and use the talents God had given him to advance His kingdom.
“It was awesome to see Jesus [represented] outside of the Christian bubble I grew up in,” he shares about his internship in Central Asia. “It was very convicting, honestly, to see how much harder even brand-new believers worked at following Christ there.” After the trip, Andy had no doubt that God had set him aside to serve in Central Asia. He had already decided not to date anyone until after his first term. But that was before he met Kara.
During Kara’s senior year of high school, she and her family moved to the United States. She enjoyed a smooth transition to American life and decided to pursue a career in business with plans to stay. In fact, she was so set on staying that after she graduated college and began working as an administrative assistant for Encompass’ mobilization team, she made herself a rule about dating: “I would not date anyone who was currently called overseas because I didn’t want to go.” But she had a second rule: “I also would not date someone who didn’t see missions as a possibility for their future.”
And then Andy walked into her life.
When Andy and Kara met during Andy’s missions training in Atlanta, they became friends instantly, and it didn’t take long for their friendship to grow into something more. As their relationship developed, God worked in Kara’s heart to soften her toward Central Asia. By the time she and Andy got engaged, not only had Kara gotten used to the idea of living overseas, but she was also excited about it.
Right now, when people become believers in Central Asia, no one will hire them because they are no longer Islamic. Andy and Kara are thrilled to help Christians there be able to stay in their country.
“We’d love to help grow the church by enabling the church to stay—it’s hard to grow a church when any time a person becomes a believer they have to leave the country,” Andy explains. If Andy and Kara can help Christian-owned businesses in Central Asia to thrive, Central Asians can stay in the country and in their churches.
Pray for Andy and Kara as they enter the support-raising and partner-development phase of preparing to go. They hope to deploy in January of 2023.
*Names changed for security reasons.