The university will say goodbye to Gary Green after 15 years of missional guidance at a reception Tuesday as he transitions to work with Barnabas International.
The associate director of missions and adjunct professor of Old Testament started his journey in Abilene after his family moved from church planting in Venezuela. Green was coached by a former missionary, who directed him to spend more time on campus as a way to connect and use his history in Venezuela more fully.
Because the university didn’t have a short term mission internship program, Green worked with Wimon Walker to create World Wide Witness in 2001.
In the summer of 2002, World Wide Witness launched their first mission with 35 students participating. After almost 15 years, the program will have seen over 800 students reach more than 60 different countries. Many of these students returned from their missions with a desire to spend longer terms overseas, said Green. Because of the success, the program being awarded the only short term missions program in the Church of Christ to receive the certification of standard of excellence, a new program, known as gap year, bloomed to offer more long term missions to students.
With gap year, students can spend anywhere from six months to two years in different parts of the world. This coming January, seven students will leave to work in a variety of countries.
Green recognized that students had the desire to create missionary teams even more after their long term missions, and thus started a training program in 2007 that taught groups how to work together and endure stresses. They travel to places such as Costa Rica, Russia, Australia, Peru, China, Thailand and Haiti.
12 teams have been created by students, or are a product of different connections that have gone through Green’s training program. Green said that despite his transition to a new area of missions, Barnabas International will still allow him to do contract work with the university to continue growing teams.
“It’s a transition away from my current job, but into an area much more specific and much more focused, with a very definite goal of preventing problems and stress issues with missionaries,” Green said.
Green also said that his new job with Barnabas International will consist primarily of four duties. First, he will spend time visiting missionaries across the globe. He is already lined up to spend the month of April overseas. Second, he will conduct retreats for missionaries, already having four to five planned between him and his wife. Third, he will continue to train missionary teams that are a product of ACU. Last, Green said he will spend time Skyping, communicating and resourcing missionaries.
“The reason I’m doing that, is those 12 teams that are on the field and others like them, have special needs due to cultural situations, due to special stressed that come with the type of work, due to the distance away from family, due to working at a spiritually intense level for a long period of time. They have certain needs that very often go unmet.”
Personally, Green said he experienced some of the unnoticed stresses.
Green and his family lived in Venezuela for six years, when Hugo Chavez was elected the leader of the country. In only a six-month period of time, the homicide rate jumped 70%. Green said before, he could do anything and go anywhere. But following the election, his house, church and one of his cars were all broken into and his other car was stolen. Eventually, his family had to hire a guard for protection at night, who arrested a total of six people climbing the fence trying to rob or attack them.
“There’s a lot of stress that goes on out there that most of us don’t think about,” Green said. “I believe that God has really led us to this point. In two months, we have already been contacted by missionaries in the field and asked to do three retreats that were not on my radar two months ago. I think that God’s at work and moving in ways.”
Every year, more than 8000 missionaries return to the United States. Of those who return, Green said 71% return for preventable reasons.
“We invest a lot of money getting people into the field and because we don’t take care of them,” Green said. “We have to repeat it, repeat it, repeat it, and spend and spend and spend. Beyond the financial issue, when people get to the field and they are not properly taken care of, it leaves permanent scars. People get very hurt, and very damaged in the process of not being cared for. If they are taken care of, they can turn around and take care of local people and teach, preach, care for, serve, in ways that are much more effective.”
Because he is leaving the university at the end of the semester, Green reflected on his time, saying that he has been stretched in both intellect and spirituality as well as deepening for his missional career.
“It’s been a wonderful experience to be around other people who are like minded who have missions as a primary focus, and who have dedicated their life to that. So there’s been a lot of encouragement come out of that.”