March 2019 – When they met in language school in 1979, Mark and Ruth were heading to totally different mission destinations: China and Papua New Guinea.
“Mark and I had a wonderful summer, but I came away asking the Lord to give me a burden for the people He wanted me to serve,” Ruth said. “As soon as I returned home, I was asked to serve a group of international students from Hong Kong, and one family came with an 8-year-old child who was so terribly malnourished, she looked like she was 2 or 3 years old. Through all of that, God gave me a burden for the Chinese people.”
Within ten months of having met, Mark and Ruth Harbour were married, and in 1983 they moved to Taiwan with a lifetime calling.
“We are church planters,” Mark explained. “There are so many weak churches. We move into their neighborhoods and resource churches to strengthen their work. We’re presently involved at a church we’ve been at for five years, and we’ll be moving on to a sixth church plant soon.”
Now in 2019, the Harbours are 36-year veterans who have spent their lives in Taiwan, building up church plants, raising their children, and even gaining in-laws there. And they have plans for the future.
In 2018, they joined a new missions organization, Global Outreach International.
“Taiwan Harvest 119 is our life work,” Mark said, “but the Lord brought us to Global Outreach because we saw a need for something bigger than ourselves, bigger than our ministry, to continue the work and expand the work.”
Expansion melds with experience
A missions sending agency that has been around since 1971 in Tupelo, Mississippi, Global Outreach has seen expansion as a key element in the last few years. GO has more than 150 missionaries serving in 42 countries and sends about 1,500 short-term team members annually. In 2018, the number of active missionaries jumped to 320 when GO became the umbrella agency for 8 Days of Hope, a stateside disaster relief ministry.
Steadman and Alyssa Harrison joined GO as missionaries in 2009 and moved with their family to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“We had long term missions in mind, and we were in Addis Ababa for six years,” Steadman said. “Then I was invited to move to Mississippi and serve in my current role as mission director at Global Outreach.”
Under his leadership, GO has evolved into an organization that attracts experienced missionaries like the Harbours, as well as fostering new missionaries.
“Traditionally, we’ve been a financial back office, providing the financial support needed by missionaries,” Harrison said.
The most unique financial aspect is 100% of donations made to individual missionaries goes directly to their work in the field. GO’s accreditation by ECFA, and organization that audits financial accountability, is also a major asset for missionaries on the field.
“Many churches, as a policy, will not support missionaries who are not members of the ECFA,” Mark said. “More churches will support us because of GO’s ECFA accreditation than if we were completely independent.”
But Global Outreach is also a sending agency, giving new missionaries direction, sustaining them through member care, and guiding them through reentry after having been on the field.
“Our role really is in the sending and sustaining space,” Harrison said. “GO is unique in that it has very autonomous management, so missionaries are very self-directed. But we want to make sure people go prepared. Our work is really to find and recruit the right creative people to go and spend their lives and make a difference.”
For the Harbours, GO enables them to see their work multiply and grow in a way they could not accomplish alone.
“GO enables us to recruit missionaries to an organization that can give orientation, oversight, member care, and so on,” Mark said.
“We work in over 50 areas,” Ruth added, “and if we can connect with resourced churches and individuals that God raises up, then more mature workers can be trained and given responsibility for the long term.”
Longevity keeps outreach alive
For missionaries who give their whole lives to missions as the Harbours have done, there is no end in sight. Now with GO, they’re off to a fresh start – setting foundations for work that will continue long after they are gone.
“One thing that is key is training disciples,” Ruth said. “As a missionary, you try to work yourself out of a job. Your time is very limited in the place that the Lord has given to you, so you must build into the lives of others.”
The kind of longevity that can keep a missionary on the field for more than 36 years starts with an understanding of missions as a calling, not a career.
“What keeps us going in the mission field is the same thing that keeps us going in our everyday life,” Mark said. “And that is the passion to know Christ more and make Him known. The Lord has called us, and we have the responsibility to remain. We are the sent ones – sent by supporting churches and the dollars and cents that come in, so that we can go where no one else is working and reach people who have no other contact with the gospel. The Lord has not left them without a witness, but has sent us, His servants.”
“New missionaries need to have the mindset that they’re in it for the long haul,” Ruth said. “Then they can give their lives to reaching people in the far corners of the earth.”
God guides that path by blessing and building up the work that is done. The Harbours reap the rewards of their long-term commitment as they see the fruits of their outreach extending far beyond their plans or their individual abilities.
“Each generation is going to maintain their walk with the Lord,” Mark said. “I’ve been amazed to see faithful church members, about a third of those who first made up the core of churches we planted, who are now in full-time ministry. I think every person ought to be thought of as a potential preacher, teacher, or evangelist.”
“There will be hardships, there will be setbacks, there will be times you wonder if you have a call to stay,” Ruth said. “But the Lord is faithful, and He’ll walk you through those experiences and reaffirm your calling in the end. God is building His church, and He’s willing to use weak vessels to accomplish His kingdom purposes.”
Learn more at taiwanharvest119.com, globaloutreach.org, or 662-842-4615.
AFA Journal writer headed to India mission field
Stacy Singh attended Global Outreach International’s fall 2018 missionary orientation training, where she met Mark and Ruth Harbour.
In spring 2019, Stacy and her husband Maurice Singh are moving to India as fulltime missionaries with Look Unto Jesus Ministries, India, a 43-year-old organization that Maurice’s mother Helen Singh founded with her late husband Sundar. Look Unto Jesus Ministries rescues children from trafficking, cares for the underprivileged, and plants churches in unreached areas of India.
In February 2019, Maurice will be starting a pastor training school to further the work of church planting. Stacy will be teaching English as a second language, a valuable asset that puts impoverished students on a career path whereby they can obtain financial security. Learn more at globaloutreach.org or 662-842-4615.