The start of a journey
Nate Thorne (front right) plays soccer in Guinea-Bissau during his 2012–2013 YES team assignment.
PHOTO BY PETER STAHL
KRYSTLE: As a young adult, I didn’t know that I would go on to serve in long-term missions, but I was always open to it. I had gone through the EMM YES program when I was 18, and that instilled in me God’s heart for the whole world to know him. When I was 22, I felt challenged to go deeper in my walk with God and sensed him inviting me to serve overseas again. I reached out to EMM for help discerning this calling that I sensed to (perhaps) somewhere in Africa.
I’m thankful for the heart of EMM staff who talked and prayed with me and provided information on opportunities that I could discern a calling by doing a mission internship. I decided to go to a tiny country in West Africa called The Gambia for a one-year internship, serving alongside a team of long-term workers and other interns from EMM.
That experience changed my life in so many ways. As I lived with a Muslim host family and worked with local Muslim women, my entire worldview was expanded. These people looked out for me, fed me, and taught me how to survive in a foreign context. Before living in West Africa, the only things I had heard about Muslims were negative, fear-filled, or even hateful; but my experience living with them was joyful and loving.
I came to see them as my family and I still long for the day that they come to know Jesus as their Lord. That internship taught me that my service to God is not about me. I may be changed in the process, but any way he chooses to use me is all for his glory, for him to be made known in all the earth!
NATE: Following high school, I had several influential mentors in my life who strongly encouraged me to join the YES program with EMM. I had little exposure to missions at the time but my faith in Jesus gave me a strong desire to go and share the gospel with people who may have never heard the gospel before. My YES team served in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa, and during my time there, I had a distinct sense that God would be calling me back long-term.
When I returned to the U.S. and settled back into pursuing education and employment, I continued to live missionally and see God extending his kingdom in my local context. I gained a much larger sense of God’s heart for the word. As a follower of Jesus, I knew that I was called to go; we are all called to go, but where we go looks different for everyone. My experience in short-term missions was a catalyst for me to live a life on mission with God regardless of context. The highlight of this was not choosing to go into YES, but rather how I lived a life on mission with God after that experience.
KRYSTLE: Fast forward ten-plus years and we’re married to each other and I work at EMM. Through my role with EMM, I had the opportunity of hearing the former regional representative for West Africa share some of the current needs and the vision to see those needs being met. I was stirred by his words because he talked about a place that is still near and dear to my heart and people who I knew and loved. I also recognized that Nate and I both have giftings and strengths that directly align with the needs there, plus we have both served there and know some of the difficulties of life in West Africa. That was the start of this journey to begin a long-term assignment serving in The Gambia, West Africa.
KRYSTLE & NATE: We are excited about the opportunity to reconnect and partner with the Mennonite Church of West Africa to encourage, empower, and help strengthen their witness of Christ in this region. We look forward to building new relationships and modeling Christ with our Muslim neighbors.
We both have a passion for young adult discipleship and would love to host EMM Advance teams and pour into the next generation. Proverbs 20:29 speaks of how the glory of the young is their strength while gray hair is the splendor of the old. In Greek, the word “strength” is not speaking of physical capacity but a type of spiritual force that pioneers new places for God’s kingdom.
Young adults carry a special anointing to pioneer new spiritual territory for God’s Kingdom to be advanced throughout the world. Serving in West Africa will give you the opportunity to be stretched, expand your worldview, and join God in his mission of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. We’d love to have you serve in West Africa!