Staff Conferences: Discovering Family In Rural Ministry

Jon and Deb Hansen stand side-by-side, waving farewell as the last missionaries’ car disappears down the dirt driveway. The dust settles, replaced by the first silence in a week.

Staff Conference is over for another year.

Jon turns to his wife, wondering if his face looks as tired as he feels. Her own tired expression tells him she feels the same.

“I think they left encouraged,” says Jon.

Deb smiles. “Yeah, they left encouraged.”

Jon, Deb, and daughter Hannah early in their ministry.

Finding Family

Twenty-one years earlier, Jon and Deb Hansen were Village Missionaries attending their first staff conference. As new missionaries they had no idea what to expect.

But from the moment they arrived, they knew these people – this mission – was something special.

Village Missionaries welcomed them with open arms, listening to Jon and Deb’s questions, encouraging them and offering tips for rural ministry. Deb connected with other women who teamed up to pray for each other throughout the entire year, and their daughter, Hannah, developed friendships with other kids just like her.

As the years passed, Jon and Deb realized the relationships they were building weren’t just friendships.

“We really felt like we were a part of a family,” said Deb.

The early years of ministry were far from easy, but with “brothers and sisters” just a phone call away, no burden ever needed to be carried alone.

Jon & Deb with their VM Fellowship group--other Village Missionary families from staff conference that met together throughout the year.

Staying a Family

In 2009, Stonecroft, a sister organization, dropped their funding of Village Missions, and these regular weeks of rest were canceled indefinitely.

Still, across the country, Village Missionaries and their churches continued to host mini conferences on their own dime. Located in more intimate settings, these gatherings kept the missionaries close.

Unfortunately, these gatherings only lasted a few days, and in two districts, children no longer could attend because of the cost. The lack of funding also kept some missionaries from attending – a sad reminder of the exciting potential lost without a fully-funded week of rest.

Deb Hansen makes sure all is ready for their mini conference in Rexford, Kansas.

After years of prayer for new funding, God answered in a huge way. A large estate gift enabled us to restart 5 full-length conferences across the United States for the whole family!

Since then, we have heard so many stories of families and ministries saved because of this week of rest. We realized just how important staff conference was, so through the generosity of Village Missions churches and people like you, it’s once again a staple of the ministry.

Encouraging the Family

After Jon and Deb were appointed District Representatives and staff conference was funded once again, they worked to keep the same closeness they’d enjoyed as Village Missionaries.

Like family reunions, they wanted to offer times for families to come together and find rest for their weary souls. A place they could laugh together. Cry together. And just be together.

"It's important for missionaries to draw away from their normal and come to a place where there are other people experiencing what they are experiencing,” said Jon. “Some may come discouraged. Some may come really excited about their ministry, but it seems like when they come together they find people that understand what they are going through."

Whether it's encouraging a weary missionary, welcoming new missionaries to the family or simply taking time to rest, Village Missionaries find the rest and rejuvenation they need.

Village Missionaries Justin & Sarah Ingram find renewal and encouragement at staff conference.

This encouragement isn't just for adults. Jon and Deb have worked hard to make this week away a safe, encouraging place for kids too, just like it was for their own daughter.

“I care about the missionaries, but since I was PK myself, I really care what goes on with those kiddos,” said Jon. “At conference, they have a chance to realize that they are a part of something. To get to know friends, and to be with their parents away from the field.”

Year after year, graduating Village Missionary kids return to lead the kids and youth programs, helping VM kids experience the same joys and encouragement that they enjoyed as children.

Finally, after five days of rest and encouragement, these Village Missionary families go home, ready to return to their mission field. This week away was exactly what they needed to make it through another year.

And each year, Jon and Deb are the last to leave.

"We stay until the end and wave at everybody leaving, and we look at each other, and we are spent," said Deb. "But it's a good spent. We say, 'Yeah, they left encouraged.' And that's what we wanted to be when we left conference."


Every day, Village Missionaries immerse themselves in the pain and struggles of rural ministry so that those who live in darkness might see the hope of Jesus. This week of rest with their Village Missions family is often crucial to them staying in the mission field another year!

Will you join us and help send a missionary family to this week of rejuvenation?

Your gift will provide rest, prevent burnout, and keep rural churches thriving! Perhaps you would consider including Village Missions in your will and designating it for staff conference so that Village Missionaries and their families would be refreshed in future years!

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