PENSACOLA – After 36 hours of airports, plane rides, traveling through multiple cities and countries, the two International Mission Board missionaries and their daughter arrived at Hillcrest Baptist Church’s missions house, a cozy home surrounded by old oak trees and lush green landscape, a welcome place where they would live while serving stateside for a few months.
‘The gracious care of churches that offer this ministry and support relieves a burden, and it enables us to keep our hearts and minds focused on getting back to the work the Lord has called us to do.’
As they returned to America, even for a brief time, the missionaries expressed that they “felt caught between two countries, but the gracious care of churches that offer this ministry and support relieves a burden, and it enables us to keep our hearts and minds focused on getting back to the work the Lord has called us to do.”
This missionary family was the first to stay in the newly renovated missions house that has been a dream of church leaders and members for quite some time.
“Several longtime church members had been having conversations with the previous owner of the house and property adjacent to the church for many years. A relationship had been built, and the owner promised that one day she would sell the property to the church,” said Kathy Schultz, missions house hospitality team leader. “It is really exciting to see God work through our church family; the generosity and the ways the Lord has provided are amazing,” she added.
Acting on faith in 2022, the missions leadership team began planning, assembled two volunteer teams and purchased and took ownership of the land and dilapidated old house in January 2023.
In less than six months, 137 volunteers contributed more than 2,100 volunteer hours to transform a neglected house into a warm and welcoming home-away-from-home for missionary families who return stateside for a short-term stay.
The renovations included new water and sewer lines, plumbing, attic duct work, electrical and wiring, new aluminum and vinyl work, new flooring, new heating and air conditioning units, many repairs, paint, and a tremendous amount of cleaning up inside and out.
Goals for the missions house included that it be God-honoring, safe and secure, well-lit, efficient, durable, environmentally and child friendly, esthetically pleasing, handicap-accessible, easy to maintain and suitable for hosting events for bigger groups.
“As work began, we found that missionaries were not the only beneficiaries of this undertaking, but that many people who were not able to go on mission trips were willing and able to support this work using their skills and expertise on repairs and renovations. Others were able to donate items or give financially to help furnish the house. This project enabled our church to experience a new kind of mission work and at the same time brought about a closer bond among the many members who contributed their time, talent and financial support to make it all happen,” said Jack Forbes, longtime Hillcrest Church member and missions house committee leader.
With the main house ready for hosting, the project is entering Phase 2, which includes turning the detached two-car garage into an apartment for one or two missionaries on short-term stays.
“A primary role of Hillcrest is to encourage, develop, equip and send out our members as ministers and missionaries to the world through IMB, the North American Mission Board, and other Great Commission Christian organizations. Numerous missionaries have told us that the most difficult issue for many missionaries who don’t have family or friends who can house them for extended periods is affordable stateside assignment housing. Some missionaries incur debt from paying market value rent. Others are forced to stay in an area where housing is available, but it is not near family, friends, school or home church. Pensacola is located on the I-10 corridor within one-day driving distance to many major southern cities; we are fairly close to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; our cost of living is reasonable; our church is very supportive of missions and there is no charge to missionaries who stay at the property,” Brian Barlow, Hillcrest’s missions and evangelism pastor. “For these reasons, our missionary home will be a great blessing to those who will be our future guests.”