April 20, 2019
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Mission Accomplished

Local residents find strength and inspiration in serving the less fortunate
Virginia and Dan Grimm spend two or three weeks on mission trips in the lowlands of Bolivia, two or three times a year.

Many Christians understand the Gospel challenge to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty. Some Christians in the Tri-State know they may also be called to care for orphans, clean teeth, heal animals, or dig latrines. When such a call is heard, some just can’t say no.

“A friend called and said she heard we were selling our house and becoming missionaries,” says Robin Lannert of Evansville. She laughed at the comment because she and her husband Dennis were not planning any such thing. But then, “We got off the phone and God wouldn’t let it go. Were we supposed to sell our house? It didn’t make sense. Finally after about a month we put our house on the market and it sold in just a few days.” They then bought a smaller house and began to make big plans.

The Lannerts had previously connected with Global Outreach Missions. Later this year, they plan to move to the Central American country of Belize. Robin Lannert, a dental hygienist with 30 years experience, will be working at a new dental clinic. Dennis Lannert will be working among people in the community and overseeing a micro-loan program.

Robin Lannert recalls the day Dr. Charles Kendall asked his dental staff if anyone would like to go to Myanmar. “I had never heard of Myanmar before,” she says. “But I knew God called me to go. I was hooked from that first trip in 2006.” Many more trips followed that first one.

She and her husband have traveled with teams as small as 12 people and as large as 40 people or more. “I have traveled with Uncharted International to Myanmar, General Baptist International to Honduras, The Turning Pointe UMC to Guatemala, and Global Outreach Missions to Costa Rica and Belize,” Robin Lannert says.

“We have paid for most of our mission trips but God has certainly blessed us many times with people who support us financially and help to defray the cost,” Robin Lannert says. Many people who go on mission trips are supported financially by others. “Each of these people (she calls them ‘go-ers and senders’) are equally important to completing the task of taking the message of Christ into all nations.”

People can sponsor an orphan for $35 a month, says Geoff Bunting, director of operations for Uncharted.

He says the biggest blessing for mission volunteers “comes in the relationships they are able to build, especially with the kids at the orphanages, the feeling of being able to give back, and the big dose of perspective that comes when they see how loving and joy-filled the orphans and orphanage leaders are in spite of living very simple, humble lives.”

Bunting says the biggest challenge is “the culture shock of being away from home and all of the things that are familiar and comfortable, and being in a place where people look different, speak a different language, have different values, and eat different food.”

Robin Lannert says the challenge could even include being served a meal of rat or dog. But she laughs and says, “Don’t say to God, ‘where you call me I will follow, unless you are willing to say, ‘what you feed me I will swallow.’”

Work on a ministry team varies. “I typically help with the dental team,” Robin Lannert says. “I have cleaned teeth under trees and in small dental clinics.” Dennis Lannert typically has been part of a construction crew. Other team members provide Vacation Bible School for children, medical, and dental outreach in orphanages or in poor and underprivileged villages.

“Of course, construction and medical and dental care are ways of showing Christ’s love by taking care of physical needs,” Robin Lannert says, “but underlying it all is the real reason we go, which is sharing the Gospel to those who may not have ever known the message of Jesus as our Savior and the hope we have in him.”

Veterinarian Dr. Dan and Virginia Grimm draw a similar conclusion, with an account of a woman who needed assistance following a destructive flood in Bolivia. When help arrived, the woman said, “Because you came, I know God loves me.”

The Grimms, members of Christian Fellowship Church in Evansville, are among the founders of GATHER Network Inc., an acronym for Gospel, Agriculture, Technology, Hospitality, Education, and Resource Optimization. Others include Marty Finney, an Evansville agronomist and former owner of Daylight Farms, and Don and Marilyn Wilson from Branson, Mo.

The Grimms spend two or three weeks in the lowlands of Bolivia, two or three times a year. They connect with some 150 churches from their base, a 65-acre farm near Santa Cruz. Their staff in Bolivia includes a physician, an agronomist, a Bible school graduate, and a bookkeeper-office manager.

In Bolivia, Virginia Grimm facilitates meetings in a process she calls appreciative inquiry. When people report a problem, “We don’t bring a solution,” Virginia Grimm says. “We help them identify their strengths and their resources, so that they themselves determine what can be done.” Some solutions are relatively easy, such as building a bridge high enough above a flood-prone stream. Other problems are much more difficult, such as solving problems with pre-teen-pregnancies. Typical problems are the need for potable water, sanitary latrines, health services, sustainable livelihood, education past fourth grade, community banking, crop storage, adult literacy, and maternal health education.

Whatever the problem, Virginia Grimm says, there is no real solution without a real relationship, working within the culture of the community, building healthy families, and drawing out local leadership. The Grimms say that GATHER’s approach to fill the need for trained pastors and lay leaders involves a six-year cycle of Bible training on Trans World Radio, with volunteer tutors assisting the students.

Dan Grimm first went to Bolivia with the Christian Veterinary Mission, an organization that understands how livestock plays a central role in the livelihood of many families in developing nations — that chickens produce eggs to eat and more to be sold for grocery money and how goats provide milk for growing children. A donkey brings goods to market to sell. A herd of cows is almost like a bank account. A healthy animal can be the difference between life and death for an entire family. As their own GATHER ministry grows, the Grimms have expanded their mission work into Central Asia and Africa.

Mission work is not easy. Making the commitment is “the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” says Robin Lannert. She and her husband — who have aging parents, two married sons, and a six-month old granddaughter — are nearing retirement age at a time when many people would be trying to build their retirement income. She and Dennis Lannert feel “humble, scared, and a little crazy” to be going on mission, but it is where their faith comes in. “This is not a good time,” she says, “But it is God’s time.” Robin Lannert says she and her husband plan to live in Belize “at least three years or until God tells us to come home.”

For more information on Uncharted International, visit unchartedinternational.org. For more information on GATHER Network Inc., visit its Facebook page.

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