Missionary Training Recap

AGWM General

On June 20, 2024, at 7:30 p.m., 73 missionary associate candidates rise from their seats as their friends, family, and fellow missionaries cheer them on. Each candidate wears a stole or flag representing their region or country of service. After shaking hands with their missionary leadership, they receive a Bible in the language they will soon learn. “You are now participating in the very activity of the Triune Godhead who has invited you to be a part of His redemptive work and reach into the world,” says Assemblies of God World Missions Executive Director, John L. Easter, as he commissions the candidates.

Thursday night’s commissioning service is the culmination of two weeks of equipping and spiritual preparation for Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) newest global workers. Each June, missionary candidates from across the U.S. come to Springfield, Missouri, to attend AGWM’s annual Missionary Training, hosted at Evangel University. This year marks AGWM’s largest graduating class, with 121 career missionaries and 73 missionary associates in attendance.

“In each new missionary candidate, we see a reflection of God’s activity across the generations. The Holy Spirit is still the superintendent of the harvest, and He continues to faithfully raise up sons and daughters to labor in the harvest field. We are privileged to be a part of what the Holy Spirit is already doing across the world,” said Easter.

Global workers continue to preach the hope of the gospel. Through each missionary called, commissioned, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the momentum of God’s kingdom increases.

To capitalize on this momentum and steward the Holy Spirit’s call, AGWM organizes this comprehensive training. This event equips missionary candidates mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for the challenges of the mission field.

Each morning, candidates gather to hear the wisdom and expertise of veteran missionaries and AGWM leadership. Topics in these daily sessions range from spiritual formation to understanding culture and language; from biblical ministry across cultures to the mission values of AGWM.

In a spiritual formation session, the stories of spiritual encounters captivate these candidates. Veteran missionaries share their experiences and challenge candidates to a deeper relationship with God.

“These are the spiritual disciplines — they are for a purpose — they are to put our spirits in touch with His Spirit — to bring our minds, will, and emotions under the control and direction of the Holy Spirit,” said Mark Good, Western Europe area director.

In the Bible and Ministry session, Mexico Area Directors David and Kelly Godzwa walk candidates through the overarching story of the Bible, and how to best tell the story of Jesus in places where people have never heard His name.

Missionary Training facilitators design this training to be informative, but also hands-on and fun. They use games and interactive sessions to teach valuable ministry lessons.

In a Language and Culture session, the candidates divide into groups to play a language game. Each group, sitting around a table, receives a deck of cards and a set of instructions. After one round, every candidate finds a new table to play the game with those at that table. Unknown to the candidates, each table has a different set of instructions, which causes confusion. This simulated “language barrier” teaches candidates about the unwritten cultural rules they will encounter on the field.

Throughout training, leaders encourage missionary candidates to ask questions and become lifelong learners. Missionaries Suzanne Hurst and JoAnn Butrin led candidates in a conversation on relief and development. “I hope this discussion plants a seed that causes these candidates to pursue further growth,” said Butrin.

Beyond training, AGWM uses these two weeks to foster relationships and community vital for ministry collaboration. “These weeks not only give [the candidates] the training they need as they cross into a new culture for effective ministry, but also an identity and a sense of belonging,” said Tammy Lashway, Missionary Training and Development coordinator and global worker to East Africa.

Every afternoon, missionary candidates attend regional breakouts for the Africa, Asia Pacific, Eurasia, Europe, and Latin American Caribbean regions. Regional and area directors welcome candidates into the unique regional families. The region-specific wisdom and fellowship these candidates receive will help them face unique challenges in their area of service.

This community extends beyond the field, and through each generation. At the first Tuesday evening session, candidates gather with retired AGWM missionaries for an evening of prayer and encouragement.

“When you’re alone in a society that doesn’t know Christ, you realize how desperately you need Him — knowing we had people who backed us up was a great source of encouragement to us; we knew we weren’t alone,” said retired Africa Regional Director Don Corbin.

Equipped, encouraged, and empowered, these missionary associates are excited to serve the nations and proclaim Christ. After the commissioning service, the missionary associates celebrate God’s work in their lives.

“Tonight represents a promise fulfilled by God,” said Guilliana Acevedo, missionary associate to Mexico. “We were instantly welcomed into a second family — we felt the presence and the backing of not just the Church, but this family of missionaries together” said Andy and Holly Joiner, missionary associates to the Netherlands.

The momentum of the Holy Spirit’s work is increasing. As He promised the people of Israel (Exodus 34:6-7), God has been faithful across generations. One hundred and ten years since the founding of the Assemblies of God, AGWM is blessed to commission more missionary candidates than ever before and privileged to work alongside the Holy Spirit in proclaiming the hope of the gospel around the world.

By Alex Goodrich

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