Tom and Dedy Werk remember being wrecked a little bit. They had been at Brook Hills since its very beginning. So when the church began to shift a bit a little over a decade ago, they felt it in a big way. It rattled their family.
“It was around that time that Brook Hills took more of an intentional direction toward going to the nations,” Tom said. “God was really working in our church, and we really wanted to grow in our lives with that.”
It wasn’t an overnight change, but they began to wrestle with what it would look like for their family to spend their lives for the spread of the gospel around the world. As parents of eight, what would it look like to not only free your kids to go to the other side of the globe but also encourage them to do so? And what could it cost?
“It was a really developmental time in both mine and Dedy’s life,” Tom said. “We grew one step at a time. We wanted to make missions an active part of our lives, and we wanted our children to experience that and be a part of it.”
So as their children began to grow up through Brook Hills’ student ministry — which also fueled their passion for the nations — the Werks prioritized taking them on short-term missions. Funds from the Global Offering helped offset some of the financial obstacles that a family of ten might face in making overseas travel happen.
Dedy said the Lord really provided — all of them have traveled overseas now.
“Financially, we’ve had to weigh things, but it’s been worth the cost,” she said. “There were times when we could not do everything, but also I would say that the church and the funds involved there have been gracious to provide opportunities, not hindrances, because of monetary things. We’re very thankful for that.”
Over time, the trips began to change the landscape of their family.
“To be able to have faces and names with the need in other countries — that has been incredible for our family,” Dedy said.
Turns out it’s been world-changing too.
As the oldest Werk kids became adults, they started looking for ways to make those names and faces their neighbors. Their oldest son, Tyler, was one of Brook Hills’ first mid-termers. Then he and his wife, Sarah, moved to East Asia as long-termers to join the Brook Hills team working there. Two other Werks, Brooks and Molly, have also served as mid-termers in East Asia.
This has all been the result of their family’s missions involvement.
But it was also fuel for their fire.
“As our children have served, it’s been so wonderful to have specific faces and names again to pray for — we’re able to know the people our children are building relationships with in Asia and take them before the Father,” Dedy said. “We’re able to pray specifically that they will want to study the Bible or that they would come to Christ or grow in their faith. That’s been an incredible way for us to be involved in mission.”
And those prayerful relationships have helped Tyler and Sarah push the gospel even further. Tom said it was impactful for their children’s friends in East Asia to meet him and Dedy via FaceTime and hear that they had prayed for them by name.
“It was an important part of our children sharing,” he said. “Their friends would ask how in the world their parents would let them move all the way over there, and we would get to meet them via FaceTime and share with them why.”
They’ve gotten to cry with Tyler and Sarah and support them as they’ve ached for the lost people they know and prayed for their hearts to change.
“Even now we are praying the seeds that are planted will lead to salvation,” Dedy said. “It makes our compassion grow to know them.”
But Tom and Dedy both say God took them on a journey to get to the point where they had joy in releasing their children to live overseas.
“We know there are parents who are nervous about this or do not want their children to do missions in another place,” Dedy said. “God prepared us for that through the biblical teaching we got at Brook Hills and being involved in short-term trips. We were able to be excited for them instead of discouraging to them. We truly were excited, realizing that Jesus is worth it.”
It has come at a cost, one that the Werks didn’t know how to fully anticipate. Tyler and Sarah have had to miss holidays. They had to miss their sister’s wedding. They also had to miss an anniversary celebration for Tom and Dedy.
“Our hearts miss them,” Dedy said. “It’s sad that we can’t see them for years at a time.”
But Tom said they’ve learned a lot about trust.
“The joy and the blessing outweigh the cost,” he said. “We can definitely attest to that. We’ve had the joy of seeing our children being changed to love Christ more, to know Him more. It’s been great for our family, and we can definitely say that our children are knowing Christ more through the experiences they are engaging in.”
And there are still more Werks to grow up. Their youngest is still in the children’s ministry, and three others are still in the student ministry. They’re still going, and they’re still praying for the gospel to make it to the people who haven’t heard yet.
And they’re still FaceTiming Asia regularly.
“We would love for people to glean that whether you’re a parent or not, it is a privilege and a joy to be a part of mission across the world through praying specifically from Birmingham for people to know him,” Dedy said. “It’s a privilege and a joy to connect with our missionaries on the field. And it’s worth any cost.”
The Global Offering helps The Church at Brook Hills raise up and develop new generations to love Jesus and to make disciples of Jesus among the nations. Through the Global Offering, students and families are able to receive scholarships to go on Short-Term mission together. Give to and learn more about the Global Offering at brookhills.org/globaloffering.