Career missionaries share their experiences

Morgan Smith, Faith Editor

Many people enter the missions field through summer trips and study abroad programs, but some have managed to make a career out of it.

Professor Stephen Draper and Marsha Davidson have both served as career missionaries with the International Missions Board (IMB).

Draper is an instructor in broadcast journalism and mass communications, and Davidson is a nursing student.

Before coming to OBU, Davidson spent nine-and-half years as an urban church planter, five years on a global resource team and two years as a logistics coordinator for Poland and other Eastern European countries.

“I felt a call to be an international missionary when I was a junior in college the first time,” she said.

“I did my junior year overseas and I just felt the Lord placing that call on my life. So I came back and prepared.”

She decided to study nursing after her time with the IMB in order to minister to people further.

“The last eight years we have dealt with chronic, terminal illness in both my parents, so I had seen how important health care providers are, and the ministry that they have through their nursing to the patients in the family. When I thought through my service as a career missionary I realized one of the things I have the biggest passion for was working with the poor when I was in the Dominican, and providing basic health care needs was a big part of my strategy.”

stephen-draper
Courtesy Photo

Professor Draper worked with the IMB from 2009-2011 and served as journeyman in the Middle East.

He said his decision to join the IMB was life changing, and he said that he was not in a “spiritually good place” when he started the application process.

“Where I was making Jesus my Savior I can’t say I was making him my Lord,” he said.

He was working at a TV station at the time when a co-worker jokingly suggested that he “do something with his life” and try to “see the world” by joining the Peace Corps.

“I said, ‘well me as a Christian, I’d end up becoming a missionary,’” Draper said.

“He said, ‘well, there, do it.’”

The conversation stayed with Draper, and he looked into a missions job in Wales that his parents had sent him.

On December 26, he started the application process, and realized how lengthy it would be.

“I didn’t know what God was going to do and I was genuinely convinced that he would never want someone like me, because I didn’t even want to share Christ with people,” Draper said.

“It was the media, the job in my mind. I was like, I’ll go do media, I’ll take pretty pictures for Jesus, that’s what I thought I could do.”

He said he made God a deal that he would go through with the process, but if it wasn’t meant to be then God would have to be the one to turn him away from it.

As Draper went through the process, he said he realized that God was actually leading him toward the person he was intended to be.

“I got to see who God wanted me to be as a Christian, not just as a Christian, but as a man of God,” he said.

He said after this realization, he fully came to understand what it meant to follow Christ as a Savior and Lord, and fully surrendered to the application process.

He said his final test came when choosing a country to work in.

The Wales job was gone by the end of the application process, and Draper took a job in the Middle East, a place he didn’t initially want to go to.

The turning point in his decision was when he spoke to the person in charge of the Middle Eastern job, and learned that he could use his media skills over there.

He said he went for a walk before making a decision and asked God for a sign that he was making the right decision.

“I kept walking around outside and as I walked around the farmland, there was just this open field and clear as could be there was a rainbow across the sky,” he said.

“And clear as voice in my head, I heard God say to me, ‘this is your sign.’”

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