Our goal as a faith family is to pour ourselves out for the sake of the lost, the poor, and the global church. Where the church exists (reached contexts), our primary concern is to strengthen it, and where the church does not exist (unreached contexts), our primary concern is to establish it. The primary way we seek to establish the church in unreached contexts is through sending individuals and church-planting teams long term. We want people God calls to go plant their lives among the nations. And those who are called to go—whether mid term or long term—need the support, encouragement, and love of their faith family.
Scott and Nanette Bickel were among some of the first to form an advocacy team at Brook Hills to support J., their friend who God called to share the gospel in an unreached context.
“This is a way we can support and tell our faith family what’s going on with our long-term people abroad,” Scott explains the purpose behind advocacy teams at Brook Hills, “and it’s a way to keep our long-termers connected to people here. But it’s not just telling people what they’re doing, it’s also being committed to helping provide whatever needs they might have while they’re gone—whether it be prayer, financial support, going to visit them on short-term trips, or letting them know we’re in it together.”
Advocacy teams, now called A-Teams, are members committed to gathering regularly to pray and support those who Brook Hills sends. This model comes straight from the book of Philippians. Paul was sent out but remained tethered to the local church. A-Teams help provide the tether. They make sure those who have been sent are cared for, known, connected, provided for, and prayed for. This is crucial to the overall health of the ones we send, and it is crucial to the advancement of the gospel wherever those sent are working.
Nanette shares about their friend, J. “She’s been a big part of our lives before she even went long term to East Asia. We were in a Bible study together, Scott knew her from the school where he teaches, and she became part of our family. She’s seen us through our adoptions and prayed for us, and we’re thankful to get to support her in this.”
Nanette says the city where God called J. to work is a very dark place, and it can often be discouraging and lonely. “She’s doing what God has called her to do, and God is using her, but she doesn’t always see the fruit immediately. And that can be hard.”
Scott expounds, “Every short-term trip I’ve gone on, I’ve come back and thought how challenging it must be for the long-term people who live there. Every time. Not a single time have I come back and thought, ‘well they’ve got it pretty easy there.’ We even went mid-term for a couple of months to see if we were called to go, and the Lord clearly didn’t call us to go,” he chuckles. “So this is the least we can do—help support the work someone else has been called to do. Because it’s hard. And it’s challenging. We’re not all called to go long-term, but we’re all called to global missions in some way.”
“The body of Christ is one,” Nanette adds. “It’s united, and even though she’s there, our team tries to make sure she knows that we’re there with her.”
Scott says they’ve grown as a family through being part of the A-Team. “When we do our family devotional time every night, there are two things we always pray for: Miss J. and the child we support through Compassion International. When we write them letters, we can tell them we pray for them every day. The kids can write that, and it’s true! We’re not just saying it. It’s not one of those throw-away lines or platitudes.”
J. also sends updates on the work and her life in East Asia to Scott and Nanette, and they send them on to the rest of the A-Team—about 25 people. Scott talks about how important it is for those on the field to hear from people back home. It can mean a lot to those who are weary and discouraged from their work to receive encouragement from the church.
“We all know people, whether at Brook Hills or another organization, who have been sent out,” he says. “They spend a lot of time putting together an update for people at home, so if you’re on an email list or receive updates from someone on the field, any response can go a long way. Just to let them know, ‘I enjoy hearing about the work you’re doing, and I’m praying for you.’ And let that not just be words, but pray for them. It’s the least we can do.”
The Bickels not only support their friend through letters and emails, but through taking short-term trips to visit her and support her work. About one third of J.’s A-Team has been able to visit her. It’s a way they can encourage their friend and learn how to better pray for her through seeing her work and meeting the people she works with.
Scott says, “I think of the A-Team as a way to show those who follow where God calls them that we’re partners in this.”
This is our mission together.
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” —Philippians 1:3-5
Scott and Nanette Bickel have been a part of the Brook Hills faith family since 2006. They have four children: Bryce (16), Elise (14), Benjamin (11), and Olivia (10). The Bickels have served on the A-Team for J. at Brook Hills since 2015.