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August 30, 2016

Your Church Doesn’t Need You

By Annie Garman

Today finds me sitting on a lava rock in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean.  More specifically, in Reykjavik, Iceland.  But, considering in most directions I look I am surrounded by lava fields, this volcanic island sure feels like a lava rock. Me, my husband, and our four kids have been living here for almost two months, which you might find strange since my husband is the main pastor back at Pillar Church in Northern Virginia. 

What are we doing here?  Funny you should ask. 

Well, it all really began a decade ago, and it’s quite a long story (I actually wrote a book about it all if you’re interested).  Our church in Stafford, VA decided that since there were no IMB (International Mission Board) missionaries there at the time, our church would adopt Iceland as a people group and take responsibility to start something there. 

There were four staff members at Stafford Baptist Church, and we decided that each staff member would spend three months in Iceland (with their families) to see how we could join God in what He was doing there. Our family was a part of that rotation, and after those three months we felt a burden to return long term as IMB missionaries. 

So, we packed up our life and our two daughters and moved back to Iceland.  During our time in Reykjavik as missionaries, we shared the gospel with those we came in contact with and tried to start a gospel-centered, reproducible church.  Nothing went as planned, and we actually had to go home a year and a half later because of a medical emergency (Another shameless plug for my book that tells the story of having a daughter born with half of a heart).

Since returning home to Virginia, God has actually continued His work (imagine that…) and called an Icelander (Gunnar Gunnarsson) to plant a Baptist church here.  Our church in Virginia has supported him and his sweet family the past three years as they go about planting the church we dreamed of starting. 

God burdened our hearts to return to Iceland this summer, and the elders agreed that this would be a good move. A week before we left, we got the news that Gunnar and Svava’s son had just been diagnosed with leukemia.  This news confirmed to us that supporting the work in Iceland this summer was a part of God’s plan.

This has been good for the church we left behind.

Colby was admittedly nervous about leaving Pillar for almost two months, but instead of making our church suffer, it has actually made it stronger.  Leaving holes meant someone else feeling the responsibility to fill them.  Our church has grown because people have stepped up, whereas before maybe they didn’t see the need to step up.

This has been good for the mission in Iceland.

This summer we have been able to support the work in Iceland in various ways (meeting with church members, hosting an ESL camp in the community, making new connections, Colby helping with preaching, and me helping with worship.)  Gunnar and Svava and the small church here know that they are not forgotten and that we have their back through our intentional support. 

This has been good for us personally.

Getting away is always good.  It’s been five years since Colby accepted the main teaching pastor role at Pillar.  Being out of our regular daily routine has given us some fresh perspective and much needed rest.

I’m not sure if God will use this little article to inspire your church to pick an unengaged people group in need of the gospel and do something to bring it there, but I sure pray it will.  It may take a decade of experiments, but God will reward your faithfulness…of that I am sure.


Annie Garman

Annie B. Garman is a pastor’s wife and mother to four excitable girls, and author of Unexpected Grace: When Your Child is Born With Half a Heart. She and her family serve at Pillar Church in Northern Virginia where the traffic is thick, but the church planting opportunities abound. Their network of churches is attempting to plant a reproducible gospel-centered church at every Marine Corps base around the world (praetorianproject.org). Her biggest passion is to know Christ and make Him known in whatever situation she finds herself in. Annie shares her thoughts on motherhood, mayhem, and the meaning of life at anniebgarman.com.


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