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When obedience means waiting

February 1, 2016

GenSend missionaries alter life plans for ministry 

By Kathy Chapman Sharp 


Zach and Rebecca Koon

PORTLAND, Ore. – Zach Koon and Rebecca March thought they had everything figured out. First, graduation. Then a May wedding. God had other plans—including service on a GenSend church planting team in Portland, Ore.

When Koon, a native of Columbus, Ohio, and March, a Canadian from Newfoundland, began to pray about what they would do the summer after their wedding, they realized God was telling them to wait. The delay would allow them to be part of an 11-member team from Liberty University participating in GenSend, sponsored by the North American Mission Board (NAMB). They did the only logical thing possible—they postponed their nuptials and packed their suitcases for Portland.

“It was an amazing summer,” Koon said. “The six weeks of ministry had a profound effect on our lives—not just on our wedding plans but our future as well.” GenSend is a student missionary opportunity through NAMB, part of the “farm system” of assisting churches discover the next generation of church planters and missionaries in their midst.

Each day, Koon and March spent time with their teams that focused on specific areas of Portland, gathering cultural information for future planters. Koon’s team spent their days in downtown Portland and the university district.

“We worked hard to meet people and build relationships,” Koon said. “We spent a lot of time looking around and learning what is important to the people of Portland—where they live, what they do for entertainment, where they eat, where they gather and places of spiritual significance. We documented the information so it can be helpful to those who will plant churches there in the future.”

Many days Koon and his team each fixed two lunches to take into the city—one lunch for them and another for a homeless person that God would direct them to. “We didn’t just give the meal to someone, we actually sat down and shared the meal with them,” said Koon. “So many times we encountered people who so clearly needed to hear the good news. Sometimes they listened and sometimes they didn’t. When they weren’t receptive, all we could do was pray and hope we planted seeds.”

Much of Koon’s time has also been spent in cultivating relationships—particularly in a local coffee shop where he has made friends with the barista and regular customers. Spending so much time in the city, Koon soon discovered that parts of it were spiritually dark.

“There are so many broken and spiritually void people in Portland,” Koon said. “Some seemed resistant to the gospel, but others listened. I realized that God’s mission here is not about events or programs—it’s about people. Jesus wants us to be on mission and add to the kingdom.” Koon also discovered that other areas, like the part of town where Bridgetown Church is located, felt full of light.

“God is at work there,” said Koon. “His light is shining out in the darkness.” Koon is grateful for all that God taught him that summer.

“First, I’ve learned that our lives are an opportunity to live on mission wherever we go and whatever we’re doing,” he said. “Last summer I discovered that if I will surrender control to God, I can trust that He will orchestrate whom I need to encounter. I’m along for the ride and I’m not dictating circumstances—God is!” Koon also learned that he doesn’t have to spend so much time worrying about the circumstances of his life.

“So many times I’ve worried or questioned how God is going to do something or why He’s allowing something to happen,” said Koon. “But that summer I learned that when God gives a clear calling, seek after it hard and don’t worry about the ‘how’ or ‘why’ of it. Sure we need to use wisdom, but we don’t have to worry about things. God is in control and will provide whatever we need.” 

Koon has also learned that God blesses obedience. The postponed wedding finally took place.

“Through all of this God has taught me to have faith for the long run,” said Koon. “I’ve always trusted Him for immediate needs, but saying yes to the summer in Portland meant I was getting married with no job and no place to live. That sort of goes against who I am and my desire to be responsible and provide for my wife. But He’s really been teaching me to let go and live by faith, trusting Him to provide all our needs.” 

Koon is excited about the future. After the wedding they’re heading back to Portland where they plan to work with lead church planters Aaron and Andrea Bennett.

“If we hadn’t said yes to Portland,” Koon said. “Rebecca and I would never have met Aaron and Andrea. We would never have learned about this church planting opportunity for the future. God used our summer in Portland to call us back to the city we’ve come to love.”

Learn more about GenSend, and how to apply at http://sendnetwork.com/gensend. Discover your next missional community at the http://sendme.namb.net/.

Kathy Chapman Sharp is a writer and church communications consultant living in Nashville, Tenn. 

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