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By Mary Jo Hudson

Steve Poetzl, former pastor of Heartland Open Bible Church (now Lifehouse Community Church pastored by Brian Stanley) in Urbandale, Iowa, saw evangelism potential in a young couple in our church. He nurtured that potential by sending the couple, Mike and Cathy Brandt, for further missions training. Steve led the rest of our congregation through the book Serving As Senders by Neil Pirolo and challenged us to pray about how we as individuals could also invest in the Brandts’ ministry. We studied. We met in small groups. We prayed for this couple and their two small children. One sign of how deeply involved we were in sending them was meeting their financial goals in one Sunday.

The team from Heartland that visited the Brandts in Papua New Guinea in 1997

The team from Heartland that visited the Brandts in Papua New Guinea in 1997

As we contemplated sending our friends thousands of miles away to Papua New Guinea, we discussed how to remain connected. We were not sending the Brandts, part of our church family, into the hinterlands, never to be heard from again.

As we contemplated sending our friends thousands of miles away to Papua New Guinea, we discussed how to remain connected. We were not sending the Brandts, part of our church family, into the hinterlands, never to be heard from again.

That is how the Brandt Support Team, the tether from Papua New Guinea to Des Moines, Iowa, was born. Besides providing the security of financial support, our team provided moral support, spiritual support, prayer support, a communication liaison, and a welcoming committee when the family came home. The Brandts were OUR missionary family, and regardless of where they went, we were part of every detail of their life. This commitment was not a solo venture.

After the Brandts departed for Papua in 1996, our team met regularly to pray for them. We planned creative opportunities to keep them in the minds and hearts of the congregation. Once our congregation, sporting sunglasses, stood on school risers and belted out the song “I Will Follow Him” as part of a video we later sent them. After the Brandts were gone about a year, a team from our church went to Papua New Guinea to encourage them (and to see what their living conditions were). We also sent an intern from our church to live with them and serve with them. We made phone calls in the middle of their night so we could talk with them during church services.

Our team also served the Brandts in other ways. We made certain they had the school materials they needed. We mailed books to nurture their spiritual growth. One team member handled financial details. We kept prayer lists before the congregation. Another team member handled communication.

After three years of service in Papua New Guinea, we welcomed the Brandts home with a party. We renewed friendships and bonded face to face. We listened to their stories, celebrating their successes and crying with them over their struggles. The party also connected the Brandts to people who had joined our congregation and knew about the Brandts but had yet to meet them. We were family, braided together on a mission.

MISSIONARY CATHY BRANDT SHARES:

I can’t put into words how encouraging and comforting it is to have continuous prayer support from a group of people we trust. They sent us silly videos that made us both laugh and cry. We felt really loved and blessed.

It still brings tears to my eyes, remembering when the team came to visit. How great it was to see familiar faces, not to mention how much we enjoyed all the goodies they brought! When we were preparing to come home for our first rest and itineration, several parts of the Brandt Support Team worked together to have a car, cell phone, and a home complete with furnishings and favorite foods ready and waiting for us.

Another tour of duty for the Brandts followed, and we grew stronger in our support. The Brandt Support Team strengthened my personal interest in missions and in unreached people groups. It built in our family a foundation for financial support, prayer support, and encouragement. It is a much more rewarding experience than putting a few pennies in the offering of an itinerating missionary to relieve guilt.

Our family continues to give because we are invested in the Brandts and those who continue to minister in Papua New Guinea. And since the Brandts have moved from Papua New Guinea to Tijuana, Mexico, to minister, we have expanded our interest to that area. It is our privilege to serve the Brandts in as many ways as possible so their focus doesn’t need to be on whether or not they can buy groceries or pay car insurance. Instead they can fully focus on spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Word says that one man sows seeds, another waters, and another harvests (1 Corinthians 3:7). I look forward to meeting souls in heaven I’ve never met on earth and celebrating with the rest of our team.

Cathy Brandt shares: “We are thrilled that Open Bible has three new missionary families. Knowing how beneficial our support team has been for us, we want to challenge churches to serve as senders. What can you and your church do for one of these families or someone that’s already on the field?”

Former Global Missions Director Paul and Vivian Canfield (on left) and the Brandts (back center) with the Papua National Board of Directors in 2006.

Former Global Missions Director Paul and Vivian Canfield (on left) and the Brandts (back center) with the Papua National Board of Directors in 2006.

Hudson-0316-copyMary Jo Hudson is a charter member of Heartland Church of the Open Bible (now Lifehouse Church) in Urbandale, Iowa, and serves as its financial secretary.

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