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Short-Term Volunteer Missionary Service: Cindy’s Story

–By Elizabeth Ahlman

In August, Cindy Troyer joined the Eurasia team as a short-term volunteer missionary. While this avenue of service is not as well known, it is vitally important for special aspects of the work of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) in International Mission. Cindy’s term will last approximately two months (her term ends at the end of October), and she is volunteering her time, knowledge and skills, to help mentor and launch two of our Globally Engaged in Outreach (GEO) missionaries in their new roles as teachers. Cindy’s short-term service will have a lasting impact on the work in Slovakia in a unique way.

The first year students at their retreat. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Troyer)

The first year students at their retreat prior to school starting. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Troyer)

Cindy hails from Honey Creek, Iowa, which she says is “the most beautiful place in the world.” She is a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Honey Creek. She describes herself as being “semi-retired” from her teaching career. Cindy has two children and three “wonderful grandchildren (Capri, Cora and Jack).” Her children and their families live nearby in Iowa.

In her role as a short-term missionary, Cindy is serving in Tisovec, Slovakia alongside GEO Missionaries Sean Baker and Gabriel Fickenscher. Cindy explains that she is

teaching English to first-year students at the Lutheran High School in Tisovec as well as mentoring two new college graduates (Gabriel Fickenscher and Sean Baker) who are teaching English here as well. We are also responsible for developing relationships with students through English and Bible Clubs in Tisovec and at the Lutheran Elementary School in nearby Rimovska Sobota. A large percentage of the students are unchurched so it is with great joy when we find opportunities to share the love of Christ with them.

So far, things in Tisovec have gone very well for Sean, Gabriel and Cindy. Cindy says,

I’m enjoying myself immensely. The students are well behaved and hard working, and the community is very warm and welcoming to us. I enjoy working with Gabriel and Sean, and we have really developed a great relationship.

By offering her area of expertise and her time, Cindy is helping to equip Sean and Gabriel, whose college majors were not in teaching, to teach the students as they are assigned. She is giving them all the tools they need to run a classroom, plan lessons and interact with students. Sean says of Cindy:

Cindy has been so encouraging and positive during her service here in Slovakia. She was always there for Gabriel and I whenever we had a question about grading, lesson planning, or teaching in general. Cindy gave us the confidence that I needed considering that I was serving in a new place and teaching for the first time. She helped make the transition smoother. I will always be thankful for Cindy for giving me the confidence I needed and serving in Slovakia alongside us in order to make us the best church workers and teachers possible.

Gabriel adds:

Cindy has been a wonderful blessing to everyone here in Tisovec as a faithful Christian teacher for her students and a brilliant mentor for Sean and me. On the very first day of class, she taught her students Luther’s Morning Prayer set to music, and everyday since then she has them begin class by (very enthusiastically! as far as I can tell from the next room over) singing the song! She says it’s just something small, but the fact that they will probably remember this prayer for the rest of their lives is no small thing at all! Cindy has also been a true blessing for me as I am learning to be a first-time teacher. When everything feels too overwhelming and I want to curl up and pretend my responsibilities do not exist, Cindy has been the calm voice telling me to “just take it one small step at a time, everything will be okay.” Thank you, dear Jesus, for Cindy’s guidance, and thank you for allowing her to be my “mom away from home.”

From Left: Cindy, Gabriel Fickenscher and Sean Baker on their first day of school as teachers in Tisovec, Slovakia.

From Left: Cindy, Gabriel Fickenscher and Sean Baker on their first day of school as teachers in Tisovec, Slovakia. (Photo Courtesy of Cindy Troyer).

In the time that she has been on the ground in Slovakia, Cindy has seen God at work. She says,

The most amazing work I’ve seen is the work that God is doing in equipping Sean and Gabriel for their work here in Tisovec. Though they came without backgrounds in education, they have grown so much in the past several weeks. They are doing such amazing work in the classroom. They both take their positions very seriously and are working overtime to be the best teachers they can be.

They are also setting the foundational groundwork for English and Bible clubs through which they will be developing relationships with their students. This work is now just beginning, but with their dedication and hard work, God will accomplish much.

Cindy’s unique service in Tisovec began with her application to the Office of International Mission (OIM) to serve anywhere and in any way she was qualified. So, when Cindy received a call from David Fiala, Assistant Director of Recruitment for OIM, she was ready and willing to serve.  She says, “David Fiala this summer [asked] if I’d be interested in going to Slovakia for a couple of months to help train two new teachers. I have spent over 20 years as a high school teacher so it sounded like a perfect fit.” OIM was able to look at Cindy’s qualifications and the needs of the field in order to create a match that would be of benefit to the mission of proclaiming the Gospel throughout the world.

In addition to her qualifications as a long-time educator, Cindy also brought previous experience with international mission to the table. She has served on several short-term mission trips during which she also taught English as a Second Language (ESL). Additionally, she served from 2013-2014 teaching math at Buena Vista Concordia International School in Shenzhen, China. In doing so, she learned how to teach and work with non-native English speakers.

Cindy was prompted to serve because

[t]he Lord has gifted me in ways that are very useful in the educational side of the mission field. I also love to travel and spend time in a culture to see how people live their lives. What a great way to spend a vacation!

Gabriel, Cindy and Sean enjoying some time together in early October. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Troyer).

Gabriel, Cindy and Sean enjoying some time together in early October. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Troyer).

Cindy is a wonderful example of how the Body of Christ works together to meet needs and proclaim the Gospel. Each person has a unique set of skills and talents to offer. OIM offers different ways to serve such that people of many different backgrounds and life circumstances can serve in ways that fit their lives.Gabriel and Sean are serving two years as GEO Missionaries immediately following college. Cindy, in her “semi-retired” state, is able to serve two months on a voluntary basis. All of their service is important and integral to the work being done in Eurasia. Sean and Gabriel will build long-term relationships with students, parents, native Slovakian teachers and the school. Within those relationships, they will proclaim the Gospel. Cindy is equipping them to do that work to the best of their ability by training them to teach, using her area of expertise. She, too, is proclaiming the Gospel to the students she teaches and also giving others an example of faithful and selfless service.

Are you retired or semi-retired? Do you have a sabbatical coming up? Have you stored up a few weeks or months worth of vacation time? If you are interested in serving, but are not able to serve in longer time increments, short-term missionary may be just the role for you! Contact mission.recruitment@lcms.org to begin the process of applying to serve in this way.

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