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Hearing God’s still, small voice
November 10, 2003
By Brenda Rick Smith
The Wolf family is preparing to be appointed as missionaries to northern Chile. They are among a group of several new missionaries with Southern Seminary connections who will be appointed during a special IMB service scheduled for 7Š9 p.m. on Nov. 11 at Rupp Arena in Lexington. Photo by David Merrifield
Eight-year-old Hannah Wolf has known for years that her family was called to missions. It just took her parents a while to catch up.
Hannah was just four years-old when she returned home from church and announced to her parents, Bryan and Deana, that they were going to be missionaries. And they were going to live in South America.
“She was quite prophetic,” recalled Bryan, 34, with a laugh. But just four years later, the Wolfs -- Bryan, Deana, 33; Hannah; Molly Grace, 4; Samuel, 2; and Lilly Beth, 5 months; are preparing to be appointed as missionaries to northern Chile.
The Wolfs are among a group of several new missionaries with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary connections who will be appointed during a special International Mission Board service scheduled for 7Š9 p.m. on Nov. 11 at Rupp Arena in Lexington. The service will also feature Southern Seminary talent, as students and faculty participate in a mass choir and orchestra, led by Carl Stam, associate professor of church music.
The Wolfs have spent the last several months in Louisville while Bryan finishes 20 hours of coursework at Southern in fulfillment of IMB requirements.
Hannah’s prophetic announcement was the first major seed God planted in calling the Wolfs to full-time mission service, said Bryan Wolf.
Bryan and Deana, both natives of central Illinois, were high school sweethearts. Both came from a Methodist background, and had their sights set on careers in agribusiness when they set out for college. Bryan was awarded a B.S. in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois in 1991, and Deana followed with a B.S. in Soil Science in 1992. Bryan went on to earn a master’s degree in ruminant nutrition and then landed a job with Ross Products Division in Columbus, Ohio.
After the birth of Hannah, the Wolfs began searching Scripture more, and began searching for a church that “proclaimed the Word of God boldly.” After visiting several churches, they felt they had found what they were looking for in Jersey Baptist Church in Pataskala, Ohio.
Through his work at Ross, which produces infant formula and nutritional supplements, Bryan became interested in human nutrition.
“After a couple of years there, I really felt God leading me to pursue a Ph.D. [in nutrition],” said Bryan. He began working part-time on his Ph.D. at Ohio State University while working a demanding full-time job and finding time to be a husband and a father. Bryan realized that “God was sustaining me, preparing me for something bigger.” The Wolfs began exploring the possibility that God was calling them to be missionaries. Deana resisted the idea at first.
“I was fighting it tooth and nail to be quite honest,” said Deana. Her husband had a Ph.D. and had a well-paying job in a solid company, and she had given birth to three children. They lived in a nice community and loved their church. “We were going to be living the good life.”
But through encounters with a number of people, the Wolfs felt as if God was moving them towards full-time missions service. They contacted the IMB, and started the application process.
They began searching the IMB’s list of job requests, looking for positions that would use Bryan’s educational background. Their candidate consultant also distributed Bryan’s resume to missions leaders around the world.
At the same time, missions leaders in Chile were rewriting a job request for a new missionary in the river valleys of the Andes mountains. They had been praying for two years that God would send someone with medical or nutritional knowledge to help them reach people in the region through a community health program.
“It was about that time that I first had started feeling God moving me” to missions, says Bryan. The timing seemed more than coincidental to the Wolfs.
They sent an e-mail inquiring about the position. Bryan was still struggling with some questions over his call to missions. He asked God for a specific sign that this was His plan for the Wolfs -- leaving the comfort of their life in Ohio for the mission field. He told Deana, if God wants us to go, we’ll have an e-mail reply from Chile tonight about our inquiry. That evening when the Wolfs checked their e-mail, they had not one reply, but two. The Wolfs had the confirmation they needed.
The Wolf family will head to the IMB’s Missionary Learning Center in Richmond, Va., for training from Jan. 15-March 3. They will depart for Chile in mid- to late-March, where they will study the language for one year in La Serena, Chile. After they are comfortable with the language, they will make their home among the people of the Huasco River valley.
Bryan’s first focus will be on sharing Christ and teaching the Bible. He will use his background in nutrition to teach preventative medicine as a way to develop relationships.
Deana will focus on church and home, home schooling the children and building relationships with local women.
While Bryan attended seminary classes, Deana attended the Seminary Wives Institute, training that she says has prepared her well for her work as a missionary, particularly the classes covering the history and function of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“[The Institute’s classes have] really impressed upon me that we as Southern Baptists really need to educate congregations about the Cooperative Program and how many of the Southern Baptist entities are supported and funded.”
As a missionary, Deana hopes to educate “people who will be supporting us through prayer to tithe to their church, which will support the Cooperative Program and in turn support us.”