The military seems to be the perfect training ground for rural ministry. Nearly 20 percent of our current missionary pastors first served in the military, and each has a unique story of how their service prepared them for rural ministry.

For Greg and Nikki Stansel, serving with the Air Force in locations around the world provided them with ministry opportunities, taught them to transition well, and helped them develop a love for close community.

When You Know – You Know

Greg Stansel was glued to the television, watching in disbelief as cameras showed live footage of the second Trade Tower crumbling to the New York City streets below. He was a senior in high school and had signed up for the Air Force’s Delayed Entry program just a few months ago. The scene brought a heaviness for the years ahead, yet ultimately, September 11 solidified Greg’s feeling of duty to his country.

After completing basic training, Greg began technical training in California. He never expected to meet his wife there, but after meeting Nikki, he knew she was the one.

Knowing he would soon be transferred to Germany, Greg proposed, and they were married just 6 months after meeting for the first time!

Ministry and Community

Over the next seven years, Greg served as a diesel mechanic in Germany, North Carolina, South Korea, Iraq and Hawaii. Still, Greg and Nikki made time to serve in youth ministry.

Greg and Nikki had always felt called to ministry, but as they served the youth in Germany, that love for ministry grew even stronger. Frequent relocations also made Greg and Nikki fall in love with community, as they learned to connect with small groups quickly and cling to the comradery found there.

Prayer, Professors and Preaching

When they left the military in 2009, Greg began attending seminary.

“As we were there, I started hearing God call me to preach,” said Greg.

Greg prayed, “Lord, if you really want me to preach, I’ll do just that.”

With a year and a half left in school, Greg wasn’t worried about preaching for quite a while. That very day, a professor asked if he would guest speak at a church.

“Well, I have to,” Greg said. “I just told God I would.”

That first sermon led to many more, as nearby small-town and rural churches often called the school asking for a pastor to fill their pulpit.

“They just couldn’t afford to pay pastors and needed someone to preach. God really started to show me that these churches had a huge need. So, every Sunday I could, I made myself available.”

Nikki began to be burdened for the rural kids, who had no Sunday School or VBS and needed Jesus. So, when they heard from a professor that Village Missions was keeping churches like these open, they knew it was a perfect fit.

The Perfect Training Ground

Greg has no doubt that God had a distinct purpose in leading him to the Air Force before ministry.

“If God hadn’t lead me to the military, I would have never met Nikki,” said Greg.

For another thing, the military provided all Greg’s tuition, enabling him to attend seminary. Finally, God gave them ministry opportunities that mirrored the life of a rural pastor – small communities with close-knit people.

Greg and Nikki now serve in Hauser, Oregon, where they are putting into practice all the things they learned in the military and seminary.

The Stansel Family

In 2018, more missionaries, like Greg and Nikki Stansel, will begin serving on the front lines of rural North America. Many of these Village Missionaries will be sent to small-town and rural churches like those where Greg preached in seminary. They sit in unremembered places, ready to see their communities changed by the gospel, but they need your help.

Will you give a gift today, and help us send missionary pastors to even more churches in need? Your gift will keep country churches alive and help Village Missionaries, like Greg and Nikki, preach the Word and love the people in rural and small-town communities.

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