Our childhoods were similar in several ways. We both grew up as one of three kids in loving Christian homes. We both came to know and love God at a young age. We both were part of beautiful communities of faith that played large roles in shaping us as followers of Christ. Mike’s church in the suburbs of Chicago (Grace Bible Church in Elmhurst), and Marina’s church in the cornfields of Iowa (Grandview Community Bible Church), each saw the value in world missions and obeyed the call to be faithful senders. The global focus of our churches was one of the keys that piqued our interest in the world beyond our small communities, and grew our desire for people all over the world to experience saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Looking back on our upbringings and experiences, we see how God has been leading us to this point of following him together into ministry in Latin America.
Marina was raised in a biracial home and got to see first hand how the Good News of Jesus reconciles and unites people of very different cultures. Her father, a Mexican immigrant, and her mother, a white American woman from the Chicago suburbs, instilled in her an affinity to move toward people that were different from her. Mike was blessed with a gift for languages. In high school, he took up Spanish and became proficient quite quickly. Because of this, he was able to build relationships with the many Spanish speakers he worked with. He became burdened to see these people experience the hope and love of Jesus.
God led us both to Grace College in Winona Lake, IN - Marina to major in Intercultural Studies, and Mike in Business, Biblical Studies, and Spanish. We met in the most romantic of ways: a mutual friend introduced us amidst a crowd of underclassmen at Applebees. The brief interaction was unforgettable to Marina who quickly developed a crush. Mike on the other hand, has no recollection of the first encounter. It was not until three years later that Mike asked Marina on a first date. We realized we had much more in common than our love for Spanish and the Spanish speaking world, and after two years of dating we were married.
God planted us in the suburbs of Chicago where we have lived since our marriage in March 2017. From the very onset of our relationship our prayer to God has been, “Lord, where do you want us? How do we use our lives to serve you?” For the first years of our marriage, God had been telling us to be patient, pay off our student loans, and be present and engaged in ministry right where He had us. But the consistent desire of our hearts has been to engage in cross-cultural ministry outside the U.S.
We spoke with our church leadership (at Grace Bible Church) about this continual nagging at our hearts, and decided to move forward after receiving the church’s encouragement and blessing. In July 2020, we were appointed to serve as missionaries with South America Mission to serve the people of Bolivia, and look forward to being part of seeing God’s Kingdom built up in Bolivia and beyond!