Jonathan and Amanda Brown are long-term missionaries. They’ve been serving on the mission field for four years now, spreading the Gospel all across Central Asia, even where it once was the former Soviet Union. They plan to go back soon, but for now they’re enjoying a break from their mission work on sabbatical at Bluefield College as part of the school’s Missionary-in-Residence Program.
“Amanda and I have really enjoyed being back on campus and remembering a lot about when we were students here and seeing all the changes on campus,” said Jonathan about he and his wife, former Bluefield College students who actually use pseudonyms now for their safety as missionaries in high-risk, anti-Christian environments. “We have so enjoyed being involved with as many students as we were able.”
Jonathan and Amanda are back on the BC campus through the college’s Missionary-in-Residence Program, which offers missionaries a place to rest and study during a much-needed sabbatical from their duties. A partner in Christian ministry with the Baptist General Association of Virginia since 1922, BC’s Missionary-in-Residence Program is a commitment to help Virginia Baptists carry out the purpose of missions at home and abroad. The program, which provides missionaries not only respite and rejuvenation, but also the opportunity to share the value and realities of mission work, drew even greater attention in 1992 when the college dedicated a cottage on campus to furlough housing and in 2006 when the school renovated its old president’s home into the spacious missionary accommodations that now exist.
“Bluefield College has a historic relationship to the Baptist General Association of Virginia, and as Baptists we have always had a strong emphasis on taking the Gospel where Christ is not known,” said Dr. Henry Clary, BC’s campus pastor. “Hence, the college seeks to emphasize the importance of missions in the life of the believer.”
During their stay at Bluefield, Jonathan organized and led an on-campus missions club, which averaged about 10 students during its monthly meetings. He also served as a guest speaker for Dr. Clary’s Introduction to Missions class. In addition, he helped train and prep a team of BC students who traveled on mission to Panama during their Spring Break.
“The Missionary in Residence Program is important for Bluefield and other colleges, because it gives the students many opportunities to talk about missions, both on a local level and an International level,” said Jonathan. “It gives us as missionaries the opportunity to share real-life experiences with students and give them a very real picture of mission work. It also allows missionaries the opportunity to meet and bless students by hosting them for dinners, meeting with them one-on-one, getting involved in their activities on campus, and just plain loving on them as we are able to.”
Jonathan said he also met with students one-on-one to talk about missions, including several who met with him multiple times to discuss a potential call to the mission field, like BC junior Evan Abbey who attended the missions club meetings and met with Jonathan personally on four separate occasions.
“They were so kind and open to having all of the students in their home and to be a part of their lives while they were here,” said Abbey about his experiences with the Browns. “Also, they were very invested in us and were always available when we needed them. They were completely honest with us. I went to them with a lot of questions, and I feel like I got an honest answer every single time.”
Abbey added that the Browns did not shy away from discussing the most difficult aspects of missions. They spent a lot of time, he said, talking about the wonderful parts of work in the mission field, but they never neglected the sacrifice and difficulties of it.
“Mission work is something that is on the heart of many young (college-age) Christians,” said Abbey. “It’s a very difficult calling to work through by yourself. The missionaries-in-residence help the students work through their thoughts and feelings by pointing to the Bible and their own experiences.”
Dr. Clary noted the great benefit of students being able to spend personal time with a real missionary who has the ability to give first-hand evidence of the missionary life. The Missionary-in-Residence Program, he added, gives students a well-rounded viewpoint of missions in an international context.
“My sincere desire is to continue to promote the Missionary-in-Residence Program and to see it thrive here at Bluefield College on into the future,” said Dr, Clary. “My sense is that God is blessing Bluefield College as BC blesses missionaries.”
On campus for nearly the entire academic year, the Browns also visited and spoke about missions at 12 different churches throughout the region.
“We enjoyed our time back here at Bluefield College so much,” said Jonathan, “and really look forward to another potential opportunity to come back and work with students some more.”