Washington Post article
September 5, 1992

Course Work in Compassion

Graduate Student Organizes Missionary Efforts for Orphans

by Carey Kinsolving

Although Christine Carr is a year shy of meeting the requirements for a doctorate in education from the University of Maryland, she already has gained major points in courage, charity and compassion through her work with children in Central America.

Carr’s credits include washing 100 sheets by hand; removing a bean from a child’s ear with tweezers; scrubbing uncounted lice-infected heads; treating eye sores; surviving a hurricane; learning Spanish; going without electricity, running water and toilets that flush; riding buses packed with people, packages and animals; and enduring the dengue fever.

Carr describes her spiritual odyssey this way: “Eleven years ago I said with conviction, ‘Jesus, I believe.’

“Eight years ago I said, ‘Here I am, Lord, send me.’

“Four years ago I said, ‘Okay, Lord,’ so I began freeing myself from professional and financial obligations so that I could serve in an orphanage outside of Managua, Nicaragua.”

With no mission boards, support team or co-workers, Carr landed in a war-torn country where the Sandinista government was hostile to “Yankees.” But to the orphans, some of whom had distended stomachs due to malnutrition, Carr was more than welcomed. She was loved. The children’s clinging hugs and bright faces were all Carr needed to know she was where God wanted her.

Carr describes her mission as threefold: To share the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection and to demonstrate the principles of the Bible as a way of life; to meet the basic needs of the children, thereby increasing their ability to learn; and to provide teacher training in host countries.

Since 1988, Carr’s organization, Heart of the Matter, which she operates out of her one-room studio in College Park, has shipped clothing, school supplies, personal hygiene products and medicine to schools and orphanages in Guatemala and Nicaragua. Much of the clothing comes from children in Washington area schools who donate what they have outgrown.

Carr has spent the last three months training 300 teachers in and around Guatemala City. “The teachers have told us how grateful they are for the training, because they no longer are just dictating information,” Carr said by telephone from Guatemala. “Now the children are learning and participating.

“Our emphasis is teaching [teachers] how to teach children how to use the values that are expressed in the Bible to make decisions and how to apply them in real situations.”

Friends often join Carr in her studio near the University of Maryland for prayer. Or they attend packing parties at her parents’ house in Odenton. After boxes are packed for shipment, the group prays that somehow the boxes will reach their destination.

This time, however, Guatemala-based Avia Teca Airlines flew 46 boxes of clothing, medicine and school supplies for Carr’s summer mission at no charge. Such supplies are put to good use in the village of Coban, 250 miles east of Guatemala City. Seventy-five children meet in a bamboo shack with a dirt floor on the side of a mountain, and the typical first-grader is 10 to 15 years old, Carr said.

That Carr is a determined woman becomes clear to all who cross her path. Her intensity and enthusiasm are so compelling that a lunch with a journalism graduate student left the student almost ready to abandon her studies to join Carr for this summer’s expedition.

The grad student’s eyes began to swell when she gazed at the smiling faces of children in Carr’s photographs. The student, who asked not to be identified, said she felt that a stint with Carr would bring her into contact with the real world as opposed to the one created by press secretaries and political pundits.

Julie Wilkinson, 27, joined Carr on an expedition to Guatemala, and she said the experience changed her. “I now find myself back in my comfortable surroundings at home, trying to sort through all that I saw and learned in Guatemala. Like many people, it would be easier to just turn away and become consumed by the American lifestyle once again.

“But in reading my journal, I am reminded of the people we met and the 650 families we worked with who lived in wood, cardboard and sheet-metal ‘houses.’ These people were lacking the necessities of life in many areas, but these people, especially the children, still have hope and joy, and they still have their faith.”

Wilkinson, an education major at the University of Maryland, taught school in the mornings and worked afternoons implementing a health-care program for 650 families.

“I wrote in my journal that if everyone just had the opportunity to see one of these kids and look into his face, perhaps the world would be much different,” Wilkinson said. “Well, I had this opportunity, and I pray that I can live up to my responsibility.”

Washington Post article
June 20, 1992

A Family of Missionaries in Va. Imbued With a Pioneering Spirit

Fletchers Spread the Word to World’s ‘Hidden Peoples’

by Carey Kinsolving

In the early 1970s, Ted Fletcher met people from all over the world in his travels as national sales manager for the Wall Street Journal.

That experience so fed his desire to share his faith with people from other cultures that Fletcher, then 42, resigned from the Journal to pursue his dream of full-time missionary work.

“I loved my job at the Journal, but when you consider the eternal destinies of peoples, all else became of no consequence to me,” Fletcher said at his office in Sterling. “There’s no comparison. I’m now doing something worth dying for.”

Fletcher, 60, and his wife, Peggy, applied for work with many mission agencies, but were turned down each time for lack of formal theological training. So the Fletchers launched their own mission agency in 1978 and called it Pioneers.

More than 300 missionaries are now with the agency – 255 Americans and 65 nationals (non-Americans serving in their own country). Among the more than 70 members of the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association, Pioneers is the fastest-growing organization.

Later this year, Fletcher plans to move the Virginia-based agency to Orlando, Fla., where the cost of living will be considerably lower for his staff of 19.

Fletcher said he chose the name Pioneers because he wanted to take the Christian gospel to people who had never heard the name Jesus Christ. His Star Trek-like mission, “to boldly go where no man has gone before,” was ignited by a speech he heard at the 1974 Lausanne Congress on World Evangelism.

At the conference, mission expert Ralph Winter said that 50 percent of the world’s people groups (16,700 groups at the time) were being overlooked to avoid replanting the gospel seed where others had sown it and to focus on what Winter called “hidden peoples.”

The strategy of reaching people overlooked by others has attracted a certain breed of missionaries that Fletcher calls “risk takers.”

“Risk is the price you pay for opportunity,” Fletcher said. “The 1st century heroes of the church were martyrs. The first African missionaries were sent home in coffins.

So far, Pioneers missionaries have suffered no casualties. But Fletcher says that he expects losses in the future because many areas among the five people groups the agency has targeted – Chinese, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and tribal peoples – have a history of intolerance toward Christian proselytizers.

In a March seminar conducted at Dallas Theological Seminary, Fletcher stressed that his mission agency respects the call of God in a person’s life for certain places, peoples and various types of ministries.

Perhaps the Fletchers’ children are the greatest tribute to the desire to serve on foreign fields. All four have served on missions with Pioneers. Their only son, John, now serves as Pioneers general director.

For more than five years, John Fletcher lived along with the Kubo tribe in Papua New Guinea. When he arrived, the average life expectancy of the Kubo people was 25. Although Fletcher established a clinic and school, he was careful not to foist Western culture upon the tribe, which consisted of 700 members.

In response to the criticisms of some anthropologists who say missionaries destroy primitive cultures, John Fletcher said: “We are there to make a lasting impact. The missionaries are the ones that go there and love the people over a period of 15 to 20 years and learn about them and appreciate them for who they are.”

Fletcher said he derived immense satisfaction from seeing almost 200 Kubos become Christians. A missionary couple took Fletcher’s place when he left the tribe in 1988 to assume his responsibilities at Pioneers headquarters.

Someone once asked John Fletcher if all the effort to learn a new language and culture was worth it for only 700 people. The attitude of the Fletcher family is summed up in his response: “If you’re one of the 700, it is.”

Washington Post article
October 5, 1991

Couple Are Missionaries In the Comfort of Home

Families Use Friendship to Influence Foreign Students

by Carey Kinsolving

Dave and Suzy Belt do not have electrifying tales of trekking through snake-infested swamps to reach primitive tribes with the gospel. However, through opening their home to a Japanese student attending George Mason University, their influence is being felt halfway around the world.

The idea is simple: Many international students now in the United States will become their countries’ leaders. Reach them while they are here.

During the 1989-90 school year, 386,851 foreign students were enrolled in the United States, according to the Institute of International Education. At least 10 nations now have presidents, prime ministers or princes who have studied in the United States.

Protestants spend about $8 billion a year to send missionaries abroad, according to the U.S. Center for World Missions in Altadena, Calif.

It costs $45,490 annually to support a missionary couple to Japan, according to Hank Griffith, assistant director of missionary candidates for the Evangelical Free Church of America.

Yet the Belts require no support from their church. Dave and Suzy Belt, both of whom are intelligence officers with the Air Force, are making a difference through their friendship with one Japanese student.

When Yuko Aso left Japan in 1989 to pursue her dream of studying in the United States, she brought with her the fears of adapting to a new culture, country and language. An inter-church program called People of the World put Aso in touch with the Belt family.

When Aso arrived, she struggled with speaking English, even though she had studied it for six years in Japan. She found patient ears and willing teachers in the Belt home.

Suzy Belt, 29, knew from experience some of what Aso was going through. She studied in Japan as an exchange student in 1977. A photo of her dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono hangs on her wall.

The Belts became involved in international mission work when their church, Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, asked the Rev. Joe Henricas to educate them about his proven approach.

Henricas, pastor of Grace Bible Church in Leesburg, started People of the World two years ago with the idea that friendship is the most natural way to express the Christian faith.

Already, seven churches in Virginia and one in Philadelphia have started People of the World programs in their churches.

“Our mission is to serve the needs of internationals,” Henricas said. “In time we will have the opportunity to tell them about Jesus Christ. They ask us, “Why are you doing this? And we say because of God’s love for you.”

In December 1990, Aso returned to Tokyo in tears.

She wanted to continue her English studies at George Mason, but her father insisted she stay with her older American cousin.

Aso and her cousin couldn’t get along, so Aso left her cousin and American friends, and returned to an empty house in Tokyo.

“I didn’t know the importance of friendship, but after I left I realized how important it is,” she said.

After the Belts received a sad letter from Aso, they decided to write her father and to invite Aso to stay at their house while continuing her studies at George Mason.

As Aso translated the letter to her parents, they looked at each other and smiled. “It’s not customary in our culture to extend such kindness to strangers,” Aso said.

At first Aso’s father refused the invitation, but after several months of relentless begging, his resistance wore down, Aso said. After spending the summer with the Belts, which included their vacation in Canada, Aso said she is learning how to express love.

A geisha doll in a glass case sits in the Belts’ living room as a token of their friendship with a Japanese couple they have never met. “It’s customary in Japan to bring a gift when you visit someone’s house,” Suzy Belt said. “I guess this is Yuko’s parents’ way of saying thank you.”

Although Aso maintains her belief in Shintoism, the traditional religion of Japan, she said she has been impressed with what she has observed.

“Dave and Suzy spend a lot of time with friends at church and studying the Bible,” Aso said. “That’s what makes them different. It makes them happy when they help me.”

Suzy Belt said: “We’ve learned so much from her. The giving has been two-way and not just on our part. We really appreciate her friendship.

“Our lives are different than they were two years ago,” she said. “We are different people.”