Come and rest

Ben Greene

Pastor & writer

  • Missions

There’s one command of Christ that Mike Gaston was proud to break in his 13 years planting churches as a Converge global worker: ‘Come to me and I’ll give you rest.’

Gaston said he has never been proud of any sin, save working himself to the bone. Yet, Christ told his followers to come to him and take his yoke upon them, a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light.

“The biblical Jesus cares for your soul and wants you to rest,” he said.

Nevertheless, Gaston used to do what many global workers do: live with incredible urgency to maximize human time toward divine objectives. He and his wife, Murf, planted one church in Cameroon and France before serving as an outreach pastor in the United States.

Gaston family 

“(In the past) I have been proud that I was so busy I couldn’t rest because that made me feel important and significant,” Gaston said. “So often we tend to brag about breaking Jesus’ command to come to him and get the rest he offers.”

A combination of sincere obedience and necessary repentance continues to motivate Gaston. He is the director of Converge’s seven-person member care team. Five years ago, Converge started a member care ministry for global workers.

Related: Steve and Debra Rowe extend New Testament tradition of caring for servants.

Missionaries asked the ministry to resource them to help them overcome international ministry challenges. Gaston was on the original team and became the director 18 months ago.

Historically, mission agencies realized they were losing a lot of good servants for preventable reasons. For example, Gaston said conflict with colleagues, cultural burnout and family challenges often went unresolved until global workers had to leave missions altogether.

John and Andrea Nargan, who lead Converge’s ministry to least-reached peoples in America, have known the Gastons since 2018. At that time, the Gastons offered member care to global workers based in the United States like the Nargans.

John said member care is a highly valuable contribution toward Converge’s pursuits. In one case, Nargan knows of a family of Converge global workers who desperately needed the member care the Gastons offered.

Mike and Murf came alongside and helped walk them through a very difficult period in the life of their family,” Nargan said. “Without that kind of care, our missionaries could have easily packed it in and walked away from the ministry.”

Gaston couple 

Instead, Mike and Murf spent a lot of time with that family and helped them stay in ministry in their country so more people could know Jesus.

“Because of the care given by Mike and Murph, they are stronger than ever and are seeing the fruits of their efforts,” Nargan said.

Many of life’s experiences — raising children, making ends meet or facing health issues — are challenging in America. However, when a global worker lives abroad, he said the difficulty of such realities escalates to a significantly higher level.

“We want to make sure people get the care they need,” he said. “Member care is primarily concerned with how they’re doing.”

Member care team has defined a path for serving global workers

Proactively building relationships encompasses the basic activities within member care, an approach of love and honesty that goes to people rather than waiting for someone to have a crisis. The team uses Zoom, Microsoft Teams, email and phone calls plus in-person visits to support global workers.

In addition to building relationships, Gaston said the member care team gathers missionaries on home assignment every year for Connect.

Connect is an event where missionaries debrief on their experiences abroad. That event includes face-to-face time for individuals, group sessions, teaching on soul care and maximizing emotional and spiritual health.

At the most recent Connect in mid-July, there were 12 missionaries and seven kids and the entire member care team. Those seven kids had a first-time opportunity with Karina Nelson, Converge’s member care specialist for third-culture children.

Related: Who am I?: Converge global worker helping third-culture kids through unique challenges

Nelson is raising her financial support and building her team, and Gaston is excited by the potential of her service to children of global workers.

“When kids thrive, parents thrive,” he explained. “We’re very determined to see that grow.”

Offering a getaway to global workers

As part of caring for global workers, the Gastons converted the bottom floor of their northern Arizona home into a getaway for ministry servants. Guests at the Selah Suite receive a comfortable, private living space including outdoor recreation as simple as a fire pit or as spectacular as the Grand Canyon.

Related: The Mimbs also create shelter for global workers.

The free retreat for global workers, pastors and others in ministry came about through donors, construction crews and landscapers.

“They care for people so well, because they first love Jesus and then each other,” John Nargan said of the Gastons. “They can give love, compassion and understanding so well because of their relationship to Jesus and devotion to each other.”

Moreover, people who care for global workers can bless the people who stay at the Selah Suite. Believers and families have made baked goods and meals for Selah guests and donated a car and landscaping or construction skills.

“If you love the gospel, and you love the nations, then you love the people who are taking the gospel to the nations,” Gaston said.

At the Selah Suite, servants like the Nargans get away, rest and recover from the pains and demands of ministry. Moreover, Gaston has a chance to share a practice that has changed his life: keeping the Sabbath.

Starting in 2011, the Gastons began to wonder how their lives in cross-cultural work would have looked different through regularly practicing the sabbath. In 2012, Gaston realized he was good at taking days off but lousy at taking a sabbath.

Since then, he’s learned practices and perspectives to build the sabbath into his life. Now, he’s farther along in taking on himself the yoke of Christ.

“I wish I knew how to sabbath rest when living cross-culturally,” he said.

The man who didn’t mind breaking Christ’s command about resting has become a man who now shares the joy of resting in Christ one day a week with others. That includes teaching times at the Selah Suite as well as Gaston’s blog on sabbath-keeping.

Along the way, Christ’s perspective on working for the Lord is now clear to Gaston. Instead of working dangerously hard, Gaston now lets Christ define his work ethic.

“If you can’t picture Jesus saying, ‘You’re working too hard and you need to rest,’ then your picture of Jesus is incomplete,” he said.

Converge is asking God for a gospel movement among every least-reached people group – in our generation. Learn how we are playing a role in accomplishing the Great Commission and how you can be involved.

Ben Greene, Pastor & writer

Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.

Additional articles by Ben Greene