John Brown University has a rare ministry: the Missionaries in Residence. To maintain this unique ministry, the International Programs office has implemented a garage sale to help raise funds.
The International Programs office is hopeful that this year’s fundraiser will also bring in enough funds for the missionaries in residence to provide some meals for missionary kids on campus, Shohreh Noorbakhsh, the administrative assistant of the international programs office, said. The missionaries in residence will occasionally cook meals for missionary kids, but money for the supplies is hard to come by.
The missionaries in residence program brings one missionary family to the University for one year while they are in furlough. During this time, the family ministers to the missionary kids on campus, Billy Stevenson, director of international programs, said.
The ministry began in the 1992-1993 academic year, Noorbakhsh said. She said the international programs office implemented the ministry because the number of missionary kid students began growing on campus. Missionary kids often need encouragement, support, counseling and a home to go to and gather, Noorbakhsh and fundraiser volunteer Kirsten Pearson said.
“This is because of the fact that they are all third culture kids,” Noorbakhsh said. “That is so important because American kids are American kids, international are international. M.K.s are truly a third culture group of students. For the missionaries to connect with them in the areas where they would have needed support is very important to have.”
The missionaries in residence live in a designated house owned by the University.
When the program was first implemented, an anonymous donor gave money to the University for the program. That money takes care of the missionaries in residence through an endowment fund, Stevenson said.
Maintaining the upkeep of the house is costly though, hence the need for the garage sale fundraiser.
Joy Ernst Kendall, former administrative assistant in the International Programs office, started the garage sale fundraiser around 2007, and since then, there have been at least five garage sale fundraisers, Pearson said.
Noorbakhsh and Pearson said the proceeds of the garage sale go to renovations of and necessities for the house, including appliances and updated furniture.
A lot of the items at the garage sale are donated by University faculty and staff.
“We have been so blessed by the quality and the quantity of things that the JBU family has provided for us for the garage sale,” Noorbakhsh said about this year’s donations.
At the end of the semester, students often throw out unwanted items. Pearson and another volunteer, Franni O’Neal, are known to go dumpster diving to fetch out some of these items to sell in the garage sale.
“We would clean it up and wash it and take it to the MIR house…A lot of that stuff was really good,” Pearson said.
Students are welcome to donate items to the garage sale. In fact, Noorbakhsh said volunteers are willing to meet students at the missionaries in residence house or elsewhere on campus to pick up the items.
Often the people who purchase things from the garage sale are those who can benefit from the low prices of items, Noorbakhsh said. She views the garage sale as a form of ministry.
“We had a single mother who came, and she had three children, and she was in desperate need for a ceiling fan,” Noorbakhsh said. “We had one, basically new out of a box with all the parts that came with it. Just to watch her, the fact that she really wanted it. She didn’t even have enough money to purchase it for what we had on it. Because it was new, we had it a little bit higher price. And I remember, basically, we gave it to her for very little. But it was such a ministry to watch that single mom walk out with tears in her eyes.”
Hans and Jane Koebele, the current missionaries in residence, are playing a significant role in the fundraiser this year, Noorbakhsh said. The garage sale takes place prior to their departure from the University.
Volunteers of the fundraiser include O’Neal and her husband Mike, who are former employees of the University, Diane Swysgood, the administrative assistant in the Biblical studies department, and Holly Allen, director of the Child and Family Studies program at the University.
If there are leftover items from the garage sale, they will be donated to other mission groups who are raising money through churches, Noorbakhsh said.
The garage sale will take place Apr. 5 at the missionaries in residence house at 1613 W. Alpine St. in Siloam Springs. It will start early in the day and go as late as people will come.