As a church family, we’ve been supporting Otto and Marjorie Ekk for more than twenty-five years – their entire tenure in Portugal – and we’ve never sent a team to visit them. Along with my husband, Dale, I recently led a nine-member team on a thirteen-day trip to Portugal as a part of Ross Road’s new commitment to the missionaries that we support.
The purpose of the trip was to provide vision. We wanted to develop a stronger relationship with the Ekks, to see their work and ministries in Portugal, to interact with their national team, and to experience their heart for mission and their love for Portugal.
The trip was the culmination of a lot of planning and fundraising, but it was also the realization of our church’s dream to connect better with our missionaries. Ever since our family experience as missionaries in India, I have realized the value and importance of showing up physically and encouraging those who are living on mission so far away.
Ross Road also made a commitment to send a member of the pastoral staff on each trip. Merri Ellen Giesbrecht, Children’s Pastor, was a part of the Portugal team along with her husband and two children.
For our church, the trip brought a renewed connection and commitment to the Ekk’s ministry in Portugal. One team member remarked that his new relationship with Otto and Marjorie will change how he interacts with them when they visit North America. “From now on, I will be excited to see them and I will seek them out!”
Apparently the love and appreciation is mutual. According to long-term worker Otto Ekk, “There is a tremendous need for churches like Ross Road that are committed for the long term, through the good days and the hard days. Ross Road has been there for us.”
Although only nine people went to Portugal, the whole congregation participated through fundraising. As well, each member of the team was encouraged to recruit prayer partners for every day of the trip, which mobilized the entire congregation in prayer.
This trip not only strengthened our relationship with the Ekks, but it has inspired us to explore possibilities for ongoing ministry involvement in Portugal. We are dreaming about future teams that could provide much needed retreats for the national workers on the Ekks’ team, or possibly a pastoral exchange.
Whatever happens, the trip taught us at Ross Road the importance of connecting with our missionaries and of engaging with them in ministry. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole congregation to effectively partner with long-term workers overseas.