While the work has had its ups and downs, the Williamses are very passionate about their calling, which began in 1993 in Asturias, Spain, where for seven years they spread the Christian faith, led people to Christ, and even started a church in Gijón, a city of 300,000. In 2000, they moved to Madrid and continued much of the same ministry while taking on missionary leadership and administrative roles.
This year, however, the Williamses took time off and away from Spain to enjoy much needed rest and reflection. Along with their three children, Sarah, Amanda and Christopher, the Williamses spent a portion of the 2014-2015 academic year on the campus of Bluefield College as part of the school’s longtime Missionary in Residence Program. While the sabbatical may have been refreshing for the Williamses, it was equally beneficial for Bluefield College students as Dwight and Mara shared their experiences and instilled in BC students a passion for missions.
“The goal is to expose our students not only to the missionaries, but also to the work and culture that they serve in,” said David Taylor, BC’s vice president for student development. “The overall mission of the college is to produce transformational servant leaders in a Christ-like environment. We feel like missionaries help us achieve that by sharing their own stories in the field and how Christ has helped them to become transformational leaders in their own lives.”
Bluefield College has been known for years for its valuable Missionary in Residence (MIR) program, which offers missionaries a place to rest and study during a much-needed sabbatical from their duties. The MIR program 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 spacious missionary accommodations, where missionaries not only gain respite and rejuvenation, but also teach lessons and classes on missions and expose students to the value and realities of mission work.
As missionaries in residence at Bluefield College this year, the Williamses connected and shared with BC students in a variety of ways. They hosted casual lunch meetings called “Lunch Live,” during which time the students played trivia games and learned about different languages and Bible verses.
“They hosted lunches and dinners for students with a focus on missions,” said Taylor. “They served as counselors and when appropriate taught classes.”
The Williamses also hosted an evening “Mission-Encounter” from their temporary home, BC’s Missionary in Residence house. During “Mission Encounter,” students enjoyed dinner with the missionaries, watched videos, and prayed.
“What we wanted to do is to hang out with the students and get to know them,” said Dwight. “We had a lunch meeting every week and brought students in to talk. Most of the time, people don’t know what it’s like outside the U.S. It’s our responsibility as believers to know what’s going on all over the world, instead of just what’s happening here.”
Mara, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, helped teach a Spanish language class. Dwight taught a course titled “Introduction to Missions,” which focused on perspectives on the world of Christian movement.
“It’s my hope that the students gained a new perspective that includes actually going into the mission field,” said Dwight, “or at the very least having the idea that ‘if I’m not going, then I’m going to send others,’ because we have three possible responses to the Great Commission: ‘Go, send, or disobey.’”
In addition to serving as an inspiration to BC students, the Williamses were a valuable resource to the community, particularly local churches, who also enjoyed the labors, expertise and experiences of the missionaries.
“We learned also,” said Mara about their time with Bluefield students and the community. “We don’t know everything, but we do have a strong call to pray. We’re trying as we go to read a lot and know what’s going on in areas all over the world.”
The Williamses said they take their calling very seriously as evidenced by their lifetime of devotion to spreading God’s love in Spain and in the stories and experiences they shared with the Bluefield College community. Their ultimate goal at BC was to show that someone does not have to be “Superman” to be a missionary or have an enormous amount of talent to answer God’s call to missions.
“You just have to be faithful,” said Mara. “That’s all God asks us to do.”
INTERNATIONAL MISSIONARIES DWIGHT (FAR LEFT) AND MARA (SECOND FROM LEFT) WILLIAMS SHARE SPANISH FOOD WITH BLUEFIELD COLLEGE STUDENTS DURING ONE OF THE MANY STUDENT GATHERINGS THEY HOSTED WHILE MISSIONARIES IN RESIDENCE AT BC.
BC STUDENTS LEARN ABOUT THE REALITIES OF MISSION WORK FROM INTERNATIONAL MISSIONARIES DWIGHT (SECOND FROM RIGHT) AND MARA (SECOND FROM LEFT) WILLIAMS.