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Resident supervisors to follow God’s call to Africa
June 07, 2004
By Ericia Boggs
Stephen and Karis Ward, Boyce resident supervisors, will soon be missionaries in East Africa. Photo by David Merrifield
For Stephen and Karis Ward, the call to the mission field did not come at the same time. Karis is a missionary kid who always had a passion for missions. Stephen had a passion for youth ministry, but not specifically for the mission field.
It didn’t take long, however, for them to get on the same page. And after several years at Southern Seminary, the Boyce resident supervisors now share a specific passion for the people of Malawi, a small East African country.
The Wards came to Southern Seminary in the fall of 2000, a year and a half after they were married in order for Stephen to work toward his master of divinity. The move to a call to missions in Stephen’s heart began their first year at Southern at a mission-focused chapel service in Alumni Chapel. Soon after that service, they talked to Bonita Wilson, a candidate consultant from the International Mission Board.
They then attended an IMB missions conference in Glorietta, N.M.
“Up until that conference, we had been willing to go,” Karis said. “But after that, it became a deep conviction. We told God, ‘Yes. Until You close the door, we’re going,’”
They did not know where God would have them serve, whether in North American or international missions, but after they went to Malawi with Dave and Monica Merrifield, fellow students at Southern, they received their answer.
“We saw so much poverty and need for the Gospel that we realized that America does not need us,” Karis said. “We knew that we were not leaving our country in a deficit if we surrendered to foreign missions.”
Soon after returning from that trip, they began the application process with the International Mission Board. They received their appointment to Malawi in February and will be moving there the second week of September.
Their focus will be church planting among unreached people groups in this tiny East Africa country, which is surrounded by Tanzania at the north, Lake Malawi on the east, Moz-ambique on the south and Zambia on the west.
“We will be in a very isolated location, but since our security level is level one, we will be very safe and will have freedom to spread the Gospel,” Karis said.
The Wards were officially appointed and commissioned on April 27 in Nashville at the International Mission Board commissioning service. They will move to Richmond, Va., on July 22 to attend the Missionary Learning Center. There they will learn about adjusting to life on the mission field.
They will leave the United States the second week of September for Malawi, where they will study the language in country for six months to a year, eight hours a day.
Although they are looking forward to beginning their mission work, they know they face difficult and emotional times ahead.
“There have been times when I don’t want to go, but Stephen is so assured of our calling that it pulls me through it,” Karis said. “And there have been times when Stephen is apprehensive, and I’m at a place where I know this is exactly what we are to do. I’m thankful that we’ve never been unsure at the same time, so one of us can be strong for the other. We are convinced this is what God has for us.”
The hardest thing about going will be separation from their family.
“We can’t see our family for four years,” Karis said. “It is especially difficult for my family because not only will I be gone, but my little sister Anita is in Iraq. Our biggest prayer is grace for our families.”
The Wards’ work at Boyce College is not over yet, however. They began their position as resident supervisors two years ago and will continue to live in their little apartment over the Carver garage and serve as resident supervisors through June. In this position they have supervised the six resident leaders of Mullins and Carver Halls, and they have been responsible for dorm life.
“We’ve loved our time at Boyce,” Karis said. “It has challenged us. The maturity of the hearts of the students has been such a blessed encouragement because you know that they’re here for ministry. We’ve loved working here.”