We need you now,” was the message the Boehls recently received. “They’re ready to put us to work,” Shannon Boehl says.
Now, Shannon and his wife Becky are working furiously to complete the process that could place them in Botswana, in south central, sub-Sahara Africa, by March. They will arrive in Botswana as missionary associates for the Assemblies of God USA organization through its World Missions program.
“We want to be out of the country by March,” Shannon says. “That’s what we’re hoping for.”
The Boehls must have their entire budget for the trip raised by the time they leave for Botswana. They will pay normal living expenses while there, as they would do living at home. As of this past Friday, they were at the 78 percent mark, Becky says.
“They tell us the final 25 percent really comes in fast,” she says.
She says, once people find out how close they are to reaching their goal, more folks want to contribute.
As missionary associates, the Boehls will report to a “base camp” in rural Botswana to serve under the Assemblies of God missionaries supervising activities.
“They already have a place for us there, and we’ll pay rent for that,” Shannon says. “Just like all that stuff that goes along with paying bills like anyone else.”
Missionaries have projects lined up for the Boehls, primarily working with youth, as they do at the Clinton Assembly of God.
“They sent us a message in November. They’re ready to put us to work now,” Shannon says. He said the “mentor missionaries,” as he refers to them, are so busy they need help right away.
Shannon and Becky have signed up for a two-year stint in Botswana and then hope to take advantage of the additional year extension offered, when the time comes.
The mentor missionaries the Boehls will report to already have been in the field in Botswana for eight years.
“They have their relationships built with the people there,” Becky says. “And, that’s what it takes.”
“It’s huge,” Shannon adds.
The Boehls will work out of what they call “the compound,” a secure, walled facility. Botswana has a long, democratic tradition and is characterized by the U.S. Department of State as, “a model for stability in Africa.” Security, though, is still important for Americans working in third world countries. The Botswana military is considered highly professional, and the county also has received accolades for its wildlife and environmental preservation efforts, particularly in the area of stopping illegal trafficking of indigenous wildlife.
Botswana is part of the African AIDS and HIV epidemic, and the Boehls say they also will be part of the education effort there to combat the diseases.
Their launch budget is $30,000, out of which comes their living expenses and $10,000 for use of a vehicle. Air fare, necessary inoculations and other miscellaneous items come out of the budget, too.
“We’ve only been at it, (fundraising) for seven months, and people are in awe that the lord would get it done that quick,” Shannon says. “But, if he wants you out there, you’ve gotta get out there.”
He said the only thing “kind of holding us back a little” was the sale of their house.
“You can’t let it hold you back; you have to go ahead with the process until the house sells.”
And, from the beginning, nothing has held back the Boehls.
It was during a “Momentum” Assemblies of God youth conference, held annually in Springfield, that Shannon believes he received the message that this was the thing to do.
During a Saturday morning mission service, held during Momentum, before a friend of Shannon’s was about to preach, he announced that two adults and 20 youth would be called to do missions work.
Shannon says he spent the next 40 minutes staring at his coffee thinking about what his friend said.
“It was like the lord was downloading to me,” Shannon said. “It’s what he’s been getting me ready for.”
That was November 4, 2017.
Shannon is a welder for Caterpillar, and while it has been a good job with a good living, he said his and his wife’s hearts have always been in doing ministry.
Once the Boehls knew missionary work was what they were called to do, they began researching through the Assemblies’ “pipeline.”
“The pipeline shows you all of the missionaries who are out their and asking for help; we still didn’t know where we wanted to go at that point,” Becky says.
Since this was their first time as missionaries, they decided to avoid “sensitive areas,” countries advised by the Department of State as particularly dangerous for Americans or westerners. She said it had been somewhat difficult for their children to adjust to their parents being out of the country for two years. Working in a dangerous part of the world might have made it worse.
Shannon and Becky wanted to continue to work with kids.
“Kids have always been a big part of our lives,” Shannon says. “It really made perfect sense.” They also have been foster parents to a number of kids.
But, they also wanted the opportunity to perform outreach as well.
Within about two weeks of researching, they realized Botswana could offer them all the opportunities to serve they were looking for.
The Boehls attended a two-week training session in Springfield, Mo., home of Assemblies of God USA, and have presented their plan to churches who might be interested in helping them.
“We’ve ministered at churches and children’s churches and have talked back and forth with our missionary, who is over there (Botswana),” Becky says.
Shannon says his first foray into speaking publicly about their plan was nerve-racking, to say the least. After his first presentation, he felt he had failed miserably.
But, encouragement from Becky, reminding him why they started on their trek in the first place, got him back to normal, and they forged ahead.
“You have to continue to do it; you have to stay on it,” Shannon says.
He says the most successful approach has been simple, face-to-face conversations with people, telling them about the program and asking if they would be interested in helping.
The common thread to the Boehls’ story seems to be encouragement from people along the way.
Missionary friends of the Boehls from Bloomington, Chuck and Wilma Lormis, put it nicely, Shannon says.
They referred to the Boehls as “unlikely warriors.”