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Missionaries Unite in an Unforgiving Environment
Christ Fellowship Community Church
After seven summers and 23 crosscountry trips, Ken and Thurleen Bain plan to continue the trek from Illinois to Arizona to serve as self-supporting missionaries as long as God provides and they are healthy.
"I won't kid you," Ken says. "It's tough, but we don't do it alone."
The Bains partner with Gary and Martha Ramer at Hickiwan, a remote village on the 4,446 square miles of the Tohono O'odham Nation in southern Arizona. Both are retired pastors with over 100 years of ministry between them. Ramer shepherds when the Bains are on the road.
Eric and Brittany Gibbs, Eddie and Candy Ware, and Joshua and Deidra Hodges, other self-funded missionaries in the area, help bring the gospel to the 140 people in the village.
"Last year, village men worked beside teams from Kentucky, Kansas and Illinois to frame and roof our new 32'-by-92' mission house," Bain says. "Men from Wyoming and Trinity Baptist Church in Casa Grande built a new home for a family. Many come to teach VBS and Bible studies."
Thurleen uses a biblical reference to explain her role.
"We see ourselves like Aaron and Hur," she says. "As they lifted the arms of Moses, we lift the arms of the Indian believers as they minister to their own. Our goal is to teach the few native pastors to work together and to help train men who are called to be effective pastors. The spiritual darkness here is great."
Arizona Southern Baptists also help.
"We have the support of Felix Juan, chairman of the Baptist Indian Fellowship," Ken says. "Green Valley Baptist Church donated the van which Gary drives through the village to pick up people on Sundays."
For the Bains, as self-funded missionries, raising their support is part of their work.
"We were on our own the first year," Ken says. "Eventually we became self-funded missionaries. ... When we're not here, we are usually traveling over most of the country raising support. We are always short of funds for the work. It has been a struggle all along the way."
Two years ago Bain asked the Ramers to carry on the work at Hickiwan.
"Gary is a tremendous teacher," says Bain. "He is showing the community how to be the church. We had to throw away the book and adjust to the culture."
Child evangelism takes place as Gary plays kickball with the kids, while Martha teaches the older children and adults.
"When you serve in an area where the closest grocery store and post office are 80 miles away, you deal with a different set of challenges," Bain says. "People move in and out frequently. Dropout rates in the reservation schools are 65-70 percent. Native Americans are patriotic and have a very high participation in military service, leaving many single-parent homes."
With instability the norm, people are curious and excited about the permanent multi-purpose mission house. It will house 30 missionaries, be used for village events, offer vocational training, planned seminary classes, and hopefully serve as an incubator for entrepreneurial skills.
"God is doing amazing things here," says Bain. "He has brought people with different skills and gifts from across the country to assist native pastors to build a nation of Indian believers."
--To learn more about the Bains' ministry, check out their website at http://www.ktbministries.org.