New Missionaries Prepare to Move to Bolivia

10/24/2006

"John and I have known for quite some time that we were called to be international missionaries. We decided to answer that call after the boys would graduate from college and be on their own. However, God's timing is not ours, and it has become apparent in the last year that we are to answer the call NOW," writes newly commissioned General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) missionary Suzanne Funk.
 
During the last year the Funks, members of Good Shepherd UMC, set on a path of action to answer God's call to international missions.  They, along with their two young sons, will be moving to serve at the Rio Colorado Agricultural School in Bolivia for a three-year term beginning in January.
 
Entering the Process
After deciding to pursue their call to be missionaries, the Funks research different mission opportunities and began to pursue opportunities the General Board of Global Ministries.

They began by meeting with North Alabama Conference Director of Mission and Outreach Rev. Patrick Friday.  Rev. Friday, based his experience of serving as a missionary in the Baltics, first recommended that the Funks try a short-term mission trip overseas.  So Suzanne and John participated in a trip to Latvia last March.

After that initial trip, with their calling still strong, Rev. Friday suggested they spend a more extended period of time in a mission setting to really get the feel of living in a different culture as a family. So Rev. Friday helped the Funks connect with missionaries Estela & Peter Hudy who were serving in Rio Colorado, Bolivia. As the Funks continued filling out the paper work and other requirements to apply to be GBGM missionaries, they also prepared to spend the summer in this remote, rainforest area of Bolivia and work alongside the Hudys.
 
The Funks say the experience in the rainforest compound was a memorable one that included snakes and spiders in their home. They also share how God was at work during this time.  The Hudys had two sons the same ages as the Funks sons. So Jonathan and Jeffrey had friends to help them transition to the area and also to translate for them while they attended school at the compound.
 
"After the first three weeks or so, we are able to adjust to the area," John shares. He also notes that if they had only stayed for a short-term trip of 10 days or so, they may not have been willing to return to the area.


Invitation from GBGM
On their way home they each received calls from the GBGM inviting them to complete the battery of necessary tests and to come to New York in order to interview to be received as missionaries.  Soon after their interviews they were extended an invitation to attend new missionary training in September.  Before they left for the five-week training they also found out they would be the missionary family replacing the Hudys, whose assignment was coming to a close, at the Rio Colorado Agricultural School in Bolivia!

Their missionary training concluded on Oct. 10 when John and Suzanne were officially commissioned as GBGM missionaries. They and their family are now preparing for their early January departure for Bolivia.  They will attend language school in Cochabamba, Bolivia, from January to June.  They are set to officially arrive at the Rio Colorado Agricultural School in mid-June.
 

The School
The Funks assignment to Bolivia keeps a strong North Alabama connection of sharing the gospel in this region.
 
The Rio Colorado Technical Agricultural High School was one of several schools started by North Alabama Conference missionary Rev. Robert Caulfield. Classes started on May 28, 1984, with 26 students from grades six to nine. 
The Rio Colorado Agricultural School was built out of the rain forests through an international effort. All the buildings were constructed with assistance from Volunteer-in-Mission teams from The United Methodist Church in the United States. These teams contributed toward the cost of construction material, provided their own labor, and paid their own travel expenses. Additional labor was provided by the parents of the students who also cleared and prepared the land prior to the volunteer teams arrival. Classes were taught by Bolivians, Canadians, and people from the United States.
 
Throughout the years many North Alabama Conference congregations have supported the work of the school and of the United Methodist missionaries assigned to the area.
 
The school works in partnership with the Bolivian government to provide public education to children in this remote region where only one in 100 men and one in 200 women have a high school degree. This ministry of the Rio Colorado School has made education available to many more young men and women.
 
The Funks share that, The school is used by 200 students, grades 4 through 12 with 24 people on staff.
 
Some of the children are local and some come from 100 miles away to attend this school. They come in on Sunday and leave on Friday. The school has 26 computers in a computer lab and they also have a mechanical shop and carpentry a shop.
 
The Funks also see how their job and life experiences are going to helping them in their roles of leading the school. John currently works as a project manager for a company that handles information technology services. He has also worked as a high school and middle school teacher for Madison County schools. Suzanne has also served as a teacher and computer trainer. The Funks say one of the most exciting aspects of the school currently is the computer lab.  It is one of the few places the Bolivian people of the area can receive computer training.
 
Support the Funks
During the fall of 2006, the Funks will be visiting local congregations to share their story and describe the ministry in Bolivia.  If you are interested in scheduling them to come speak at your church you can email them at funk@funk4.com.
 
Also, the Funks are keeping their supporters updated through their website.  You can visit it at www.funk4.com
 to read their latest news.
 
You and your congregation can also support the Funks financially through giving to The Advance, an official United Methodist program that gives you the opportunity to give to the ministry or missionaries of your choice. (Advance giving is often called "second-mile giving" because it goes beyond the "first mile" of contributing to apportionments and World Service Funds.)  You can contribute to the Advance the following ways:

  • Through your local United Methodist church

Drop your check in the offering plate and note the advance fund you are contributing to in the memo field.

  • Online

You can make a credit card donation at http://secure.gbgm-umc.org/donations/donate_select_project.cfm.

  • By Mail:

Make your check payable to ADVANCE GCFA. Write the name of the ministry and the Advance code number on the check. Send your check to:

Advance GCFA P.O. Box 9068, GPO New York, NY 10087-9068

  • By Phone:

Credit card gifts can be accepted by phone. The telephone number is: (888) 252-6174


The Specific Advance funds and their Advance numbers that you can give to in order to support the Funks ministry are

  • John - #15143Z
  • Suzanne - #15144Z
  • School - #12308A
     

Finally, if your congregation would like to become covenant partners with John and Suzanne click here for details.

 


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