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50 Years of Grace: MTW Through the Years

By Staff, Jul 25, 2023

For 50 years, MTW missionaries have faithfully served, bringing the gospel into regions where the truth of Christ was desperately needed. Through God's grace, what began with 11 founding missionaries in 1973 has grown to nearly 1,700 missionaries and national partners serving in over 100 countries.

As we celebrate, we wanted to share a few highlights of the last 50 years with our at-a-glance timeline, reminders of some key trends and initiatives, and a look-back video where you might see some familiar faces from MTW's history. 

Timeline 1

Since 1973: National Partners

From MTW’s earliest days, we have seen partnerships with national pastors and denominations as vital to carrying out the Great Commission. In fact, it has been a key philosophical commitment in our church-planting methodology.

As we in the U.S. have become more aware of the colonial nature of some historical missions efforts, the importance of ”doing with” rather than “doing for” has been a hot topic, especially as books like "When Helping Hurts" have circulated within the PCA and beyond. Our own national partners have shown us where MTW has needed to grow and adapt, and so we have doubled down on our commitment to things like discovering national leaders, working alongside or coming underneath them, training if we’re asked, and supporting national leadership in every way we are able.

While there are still places in the world where God had not yet raised up believers, let alone leaders, our first priority is still to partner with local leaders when possible. Together, we carry out the mission of the Church, to make disciples of all nations.

1981 Short-Term Missions & Trips

Missions lore recounts stories of missionaries packing their coffins when they moved overseas, leaving all behind to never return. As travel became cheaper and cultural trends changed, more and more people wanted to serve in missions shorter-term—sans coffin.

In 1981, MTW established Servants in Missions Abroad, a “short term” way of serving which, by today’s measure, was pretty long: two years. The next year, we started a three-month summer internship program. Since then, we’ve sent thousands on the most common entry point into serving globally: mission trips.

A lot has changed from the bustling years of the 80s and 90s, to the now post-COVID complexities of international travel. There isn’t a person in missions who hasn’t seen the perspective and purpose of mission trips shift significantly.

The purpose of mission trips at MTW has always been to connect the global Church. We are a family, and we need each other.

Mission trips help us taste and see the kingdom of God. They can be rich soil for equipping our members and identifying new leaders and missionaries. When done right, mission trips can be a catalyst for impact both overseas and back home.

Timeline 2

1993 The CoMission

MTW sent its first three church-planting families to Ukraine in 1993. Under this team’s leadership and coordination efforts, 100 PCA volunteers went to live a full year in Ukraine, going into the atheistic schools, sharing their testimonies, and showing Bible study videos. Many of the first interpreters were themselves converted. Some became pastors and active servants.

This was the CoMission project, where MTW joined 70 other churches and missions in a unique opportunity as the former U.S.S.R. dissolved. After 70 years of atheism, God opened wide the door for the gospel.

Many of these “CoMissioners” went on to become long-term missionaries. Twenty-two other CoMissioners returned to serve various ways in Ukraine, helping the churches in many ministries, including a Christian clinic, work with orphans, a crisis pregnancy center, a counseling center, and Christian schools.

Today there is a national Presbyterian denomination of 15 churches across Ukraine. Some of the greatest fruit has been seen during the last year of war with Russia, as these national churches have ministered heroically to their own people.

1993 Global Muslim Ministry

In the early 1990s, the eye of the Christian missions world turned toward the “10/40 window,” a huge swath of the globe that is unreached by the gospel—2 billion of whom are Muslim. People joined in this effort through cooperative agreements with MTW, forming teams in the early 90s in North Africa and the Middle East. In 2001 MTW announced the establishment of its youngest “region,” which became known as Enterprise for Christian-Muslim Relations, or Enterprise for short. It was just in time for the Church to respond, despite the shattering of a sense of security and challenges of serving in the Muslim World in light of 9/11.

Rapid growth followed in those early years because of key partnerships between PCA churches, MTW leadership, and local partners. This model focused on the development of, and support for, national leadership, with a renewed emphasis on church planting in recent years.

Today 93 MTW missionaries serve in this division—now called Global Muslim Ministry. We are seeing a movement of the Spirit in the Muslim world, but recruitment is difficult. Pray with us for eight new missionary units to join GMM every year for the next 10 years!

Timeline 3

2006 Business as Mission

Tentmaking has been around since Paul’s time, but by the late 20th century missional thought had coalesced around the idea of “business as mission:” gaining access to closed countries by starting or serving in business. Around 2006, MTW donors began asking MTW’s John Tubbesing, who had extensive experience in the business world, how they could use their business skills in missions; at the same time, MTW fields were exploring BAM opportunities. Soon Business as Mission launched as a coordinated effort under John’s leadership.

Now called Work+Place Ministries and led by a team of people from across the country, the ministry has expanded beyond starting new businesses.

Aspects include:

• Work+Place Resource Network, a gathering of U.S.-based businesspeople interested in opportunities to use business to serve internationally

• Training men and women from local churches to start small businesses in West Africa and South Asia

• U.S. businesspeople serving as consultants with church planters

• Sending people who find secular jobs and do ministry in partnership with existing missionaries through the 18.26 Network.

Ministry in Greece looks different than ministry in Senegal, but there are workplaces in both countries, and we praise God for the many ways to engage people in their workplace for the purpose of ministry.

2002-2024 PCA Global Missions Conference

Since the first PCA Global Missions Conference in Atlanta in 2002, the GMC has played an important role in fanning to flame a sense of urgency to plant and nurture Reformed and Presbyterian churches across the globe. While MTW is the agency that oversees the work of our missionaries, it is churches and presbyteries that recruit, examine, train, support, commission, and care for our missionaries. At the GMC, MTW and the Church come together to worship and celebrate all that God is doing in the world.

What have we seen as result?

• Many from our churches carry home a renewed vision for world missions

• International partners carry this passion back to their churches

• This gathering point helps launch and strengthen partnerships between churches, missionaries, and national partners, as well as the committees and agencies of the PCA

• God has used GMC to mobilize missionaries We thank our gracious God that those involved in the Global Missions Conference experience a church unified around one mission: making disciples of all nations.

Looking Ahead

As we look back at MTW's history, it's evident that God has been faithful. Now, looking ahead toward the next 50 years, our hope is for God to raise up new missionaries, national partners, donors, and faithful prayer warriors who will carry the torch of global missions, and that He will draw countless men and women to Himself. Together, we carry out the mission of the Church, to make disciples of all nations.

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