Finding Their Niche Equipping Young Missionaries for Rural Ministry

A Week in the Life…

Hospitals can be daunting places. And if you are alone, anxiously awaiting to hear from the doctors if your loved one has lived or died, a hospital can seem like the loneliest place on earth.

Thomas & Micah Heotzler

Thomas & Micah Heotzler did not want an elderly lady from their church to be alone when her daughter went into surgery after suffering a major stroke. So they drove her to the hospital in Rochester, New York – more than two hours away – and faithfully remained by her side for the entire day.

By the grace of God, her daughter survived.

Two days later, one of their church members battling Stage 4 cancer took a turn for the worse, experiencing severe amounts of pain. Thomas visited him and his wife and prayed for them, along with reading them scripture and reminding them about the love of Christ.

In moments like these, one confronts the frailty of life and the importance of having a pastor.

Ministering to the hurting and the broken is emotionally and spiritually exhausting, and at times, can be overwhelming. Even a seasoned pastor can be overcome by the stress of caring for people’s deepest needs.

And when you are a 24-year-old pastor serving in an isolated rural community, it is especially easy to feel alone and overwhelmed.

As some of the youngest missionaries in Village Missions, Thomas & Micah approach rural ministry with humility, but also with an enthusiastic desire to grow in life and ministry experience.

And their District Representatives – Skip & Venita Pullen - are there to guide and equip them every step of the way.

Young In Ministry

Just off Interstate 81 in the Finger Lakes region of central New York, the small hamlet of Blodgett Mills is home to around 300 people.

When Thomas & Micah moved into this tight-knit community in September of 2018, they were passionate about starting their ministry as Village Missionaries, but a little unsure of where to begin.

“We both felt a bit overwhelmed, but still blessed to be in Blodgett Mills!” they remarked when they first arrived last year.

As young missionaries – who are also newlyweds, new parents, and still new to small church ministry! – Thomas & Micah often face unfamiliar situations.

“Many struggles of being a young pastor actually come from lack of experience,” Thomas says. “There are many new experiences happening in a very short time, and that’s hard to deal with.”

Additionally, Micah says that they can sometimes feel insecure about their youth.

“Even though we know age isn’t what matters to God,” Micah explains,“it can be hard sometimes to know we are younger than most everyone around us.”

Despite their occasional uncertainties, Thomas & Micah have truly embodied the philosophy of "preach the Word and love the people" in Blodgett Mills – caring for the elderly, visiting the sick, and simply being available whenever anyone needs them.

And this is exactly how Scripture encourages young people in ministry!

As Paul urges in 1 Timothy 4:12 – “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (NIV)

Although they may be young in age and ministry experience, they are abounding in confidence in how God is using them to proclaim the gospel in Blodgett Mills!

“It’s not about what we can do, but what the Lord can do through our weaknesses.” – Thomas & Micah

Strengthening Missionaries & Churches

Our District Representatives support their missionaries in the same way Paul encouraged and built up Timothy.

And with the upcoming expansion of the DR Ministry, all our missionaries and churches – including Thomas & Micah in Blodgett Mills – will be able to receive better and more effective care.

Skip & Venita Pullen
“We would be able to share our ministry experiences with our missionaries, as well as being available to help should difficult circumstances arise,” remark Skip & Venita Pullen, the Eastern District Representatives. “Additionally, developing a strong church leadership will help keep the churches on mission for Christ.”

One great example of this includes a recent change in the Church of Blodgett Mills – they have just voted to rewrite their church constitution and bylaws.

Since this is the first church Thomas has ever pastored, he knew he would need added help as he and the church journeyed through these significant changes.

“One of the first things I did was ask Skip for help!” says Thomas. “Because working through the entire constitution could take over a year, having a DR who could drop by more often would be of immense help.”

Partners in Ministry

Not only do the Heotzlers look forward to spending more time with Skip & Venita and using their wisdom, they also anticipate how the DR Expansion will affect the overall well-being of their beloved church family.

“The more the DRs can be involved in the life of the church, the more the church will feel cared for and valued by Village Missions. That way, VM ceases to be a distant organization that sends pastors, and becomes more of a partner in ministry.” – Thomas & Micah

That’s exactly the heartbeat of Village Missions – partnering with churches so that they can flourish and reach their communities for Christ.

And the DR Expansion will make that heartbeat even stronger – because when our missionaries and churches continue to blossom and grow, more of the lost in rural America will be found!

Skip Pullen prays for the Heotzlers during their installation at the Church of Blodgett Mills.

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