There was a palpable excitement…an electricity of sorts…feelings of great expectation and joy as members of Calvary’s Namibia Mission Team made their way into the church fellowship hall this past Sunday afternoon for one of several team-building meetings in preparation for the upcoming fifteen-day missionary journey scheduled for October 2-16.

Before the meeting began in earnest, some team members excitedly displayed their latest purchases for the trip, including durable head and body apparel. Others turned in passports to group leaders for processing. Still others casually shared triumphs of financial goals met.

According to Pastor John Holt, as of Sunday’s meeting, the 19-member team should now be 85 percent ready for the extensive journey to Otjiwarongo, Namibia, where they will work to help complete the construction of a multi-purpose chapel of a local Bible College, participate in a variety of outreaches, street ministry and school assemblies, possibly do hospital ministry, as well as work alongside the local church in the area.

We’ll have our hands in get-dirty stuff, as well as in touching, hugging ministry to the people.— Pastor John

While this is Calvary’s second involvement in a missionary journey to the African nation, which is situated along the south Atlantic coast of the continent, it is the first time Calvary Church will be hosting the trip. In 2008, Pastor John and his wife, Kathe, along with Calvary’s Patsy Byrd and Dot Jane accompanied a team of missionaries from Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Reading, Pa., to Namibia.

Pastor John expressed his excitement with Calvary having the opportunity to lead the 2013 mission.

“With the exception of my grandson, this team is from Calvary,” he said. “It is our mission, our vision and it’s exciting that God raised us up for a time like this.”

Training for battle

At Sunday’s meeting, Youth Pastor Devin Blankenbiller guided team members through two team-building exercises with the goal of helping them work closely together while on the mission field.

In the first exercise, the expectant missionaries were broken up into teams of five or six and given the task of stacking empty soda cans atop each other without the use of their hands. They could only use an apparatus made of multiple pieces of string and held together by a single rubber band.

When the first team accomplished the task within minutes and excitedly celebrated their success, Pastor Devin provided some useful coaching.

“One thing about team building is that when you are done, it’s great to encourage,” he said.

With that, cheers and words of encouragement began pouring in from all over the room as teams finished and other teams worked to complete the task.

“It is important to understand that on the mission field teams will not finish together,” continued Pastor Devin. “But it is also important to continue praying for one another throughout the day.”

The second exercise proved significantly more challenging for team members. Pastor Devin presented an elaborate scenario of team members being chased through a dense jungle by an arrow-slinging war party due to an inadvertently obscene and culturally offensive jester made by one of the team members. The scene was set, complete with ambient jungle sounds and torrential rainfall wafting through the fellowship hall’s speakers.

Team members were tasked with crossing an alligator-infested river on two small wooden barrages with the aid of a single wooden plank to get them from one barrage to the next, and eventually to safety on the other side of the river, all without stepping in the water.

In the end, two team members lost their lives in the river, Pastor John being one of them, of which he joked that he had been fed to the alligators and given his life for the team.

Following the exercise, the team stood in a large circle and discussed ways in which they could have worked together more cohesively to avoid the loss of lives. They talked about having better communication, being more patient and planning strategically.

“Be careful of thinking you can do things on your own when in a foreign environment,” coached Pastor Devin. “You should always be with others and not by yourself.”

He also instructed male team members to be watchful and protective of female team members as an important safety principle.

Team members were also taught a special drama presentation by Pastor Devin’s wife, Jess. The skit will be performed as part of the group’s many outreach efforts in Namibia.

Then manna fell from heaven

Soon, something spectacular began to happen. As the group continued contemplating ways to work better together on the mission field, many began sharing spontaneous testimonies of unusual ways God had been moving in their lives as a result of them being a part of the mission.

One team member shared a miraculous victory over an addiction and receiving an unexpected check toward mission expenses. Another shared being given unusual financial provision through the selling of cemetery lots and an inherited stamp collection. Another team member shared the miracle of receiving a bonus check from his employer, something that unheard of at his company. And, a team member who had become unemployed during the course of her fundraising efforts shared of financial donations pouring in that covered over and above all of her mission expenses.

Answering the call to missions

For some of the team members, participating in foreign missions had always been a life-long dream. Such is the case with Elizabeth Shoffner, who, at age 12, after accepting Jesus as her Lord and Savior, became fascinated by mission work when Mennonite missionaries visited her church.

Shoffner, who has been at Calvary for almost three years, said when the announcement about the Namibia trip was first made, a series of spontaneous eye contact with her daughters that day in church provided the confirmation she needed to be a part of the team. To date, Shoffner is well ahead of schedule to meeting the full financial commitment for the trip.

“The support has just been pouring in,” she said excitedly. “I began sending out letters of support and I also sold candy to cover the cost of my immunization shots.”

Shoffner said she is most looking forward to being led and used by God on the mission field.

“This is going to affect my whole life and the life of others,” she said. “Through this experience, I will be able to share more about God to my children and grandchildren. I’m prayerful that my witness with the people there will be effective.”

A first-time missionary like Shoffner, Ayiana Porter had always desired to visit Africa. At the start of the year, she noted that she chose the word “serve” as her guiding principle for 2013. Then, when she learned of the Namibia mission, she gathered as much information about the trip as possible and began praying on it.

“Through prayer, it became evident that I should be a part of the mission team and I received an anonymous $1,000 donation,” she said.

From that time, tech-savvy Porter has experienced relative ease in fundraising through the use of social media and other online venues.

“Four months ago, I opened a PayPal account and created a Namibia Mission event page on Facebook containing information about the trip. I invited my friends to the event and they have been sending donations directly to my PayPal account,” she explained.

Porter has also been selling items on popular online retailers Ebay and Craigslist to cover costs.

“My trip is about seventy percent paid for and I have been meeting all of my financial deadlines,” she said.

Porter, who has been attending Calvary for two years, has been preparing for the trip both physically and spiritually.

“Besides my physical exercise, I have been spending time in prayer and devotion to be able to offer the same hope I have found in Christ to people who have never been exposed to Christ,” she said. “I cannot offer hope to people if I am not connected to the God who gives that hope.”

Like Shoffner and Porter, longtime Calvary member Rick Kilfeather will also be embarking on his first missionary journey with the Namibia team. Kilfeather said he was compelled to go on the trip, in part, because of his miraculous healing from terminal cancer just two-and-a-half years ago.

“My journey with cancer and various prophecies that were spoken over me, and what I believe God directed me to do with my life all played a part in my decision to go,” he said.

Kilfeather spoke of his desire to share the gospel of grace/the gospel of Christ, which is the New Covenant, of which God has given him a special revelation of the depth of Christ’s transforming love.

I have tasted of God’s love and now I want to share with others!— Rick Kilfeather

He continued, “I’m excited because the God of hope is going to manifest himself and leave a footprint in the area of the people we are going to serve. It’s important that when we go to the people, they will see the love of Jesus Christ.”

To prepare for the trip, Kilfeather continues his regular routine of exercising four days a week, as well as spending as much time as he can praying in the spirit.”

“What needs to be done over there cannot be done by man, but by God’s intervention,” he said. “Sometimes we forget that we have that gift that God has given us.”

Overall, Pastor John said the mission’s goal is to “encourage and bless the church of Jesus Christ in Africa.” Furthermore, he said he desires to see people set free from witchcraft and alcoholism, which has a significant stronghold on the adult population there.

“We want to leave a good witness behind that when we leave, they would be glad we came,” he concluded.

For more information and updates on the Namibia Mission, visit

By Cynthia T. Graham

Cynthia serves the Calvary Church Media team as our lead writer and copy editor. For more about Cynthia read her bio here.