A “cup of instant coffee in a hut” was the start to Austin and Megan Holcomb’s romance in West Africa a few short years ago, but oh the places they have been since.
From West Africa to a pastorate in East Texas, to East Africa and now in New Orleans, the couple and their young family are entering their “next term” International Mission Board assignment as campus ministers in a new IMB partnership with the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Global Mission Center.
The couple’s three-year assignment as “pipeline liaisons” will help encourage and support students who are considering, or are already journeying toward, international mission service, Austin explained.
“We are excited about walking alongside singles and families and letting them see more clearly what that looks like overseas,” Austin said. “We want to be a friend, be a coach and provide community for those in the application process.”
Friends of the couple were the first to recognize they were made for each other. On Megan’s final day of a short-term mission trip to West Africa, a coffee meeting was arranged with Austin, who served there at the time through the “2 +2” program that mobilizes seminary students after they complete two years of seminary coursework.
“They all saw it from a mile away,” Megan said of their friends’ involvement.
“The cup of coffee sealed the deal,” Austin quipped.
Following seminary graduation and a pastorate in Texas, the couple pulled up roots and moved to East Africa with their firstborn, then seven months old, to serve with IMB. As the family grew (baby number three is due this fall), so did their “recent changes of address” list.
While a cup of “instant” coffee might seem an appropriate start to a life together filled with transition, one thing remains the same — Austin and Megan are committed to serving God and caring for others wherever He leads.
In East Africa, the couple served among a people group heavily influenced by Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. There, icons and religious paintings are frequently utilized. One day, Megan noticed a painting of the crucified Jesus covered with a veil. She saw it as symbolic.
“They have access to a Bible that most people can read but they also have extrabibilical things and no clear direction,” Megan said. “Even though in some ways the gospel feels ‘present,’ it’s veiled because of all of these other cultural and religious aspects.”
Building bridges when time in one place is limited showed them the urgency of making the gospel known. Frequent moves while on the field mean a “healthy entry” is important, Austin explained, adding that this is an area in which they can encourage others.
Ultimately, God is as concerned about their own spiritual growth as He is Kingdom growth, Austin pointed out.
“We appreciate the diversity of the things we’ve learned and the people we’ve met because God is doing something in our hearts, too,” Austin said. “Some of this is about that transformational process. It’s not all about what we’re able to accomplish in any given place.”
Personal friendships with internationals here at home and short-term mission trips abroad helped fuel the couple’s desire during their youth to reach the nations. For Austin, joining a medical mission team to Honduras during high school was pivotal.
“I saw God’s hand on every part of that trip,” Austin said. “I felt like I came alive.”
For Megan, Girls in Action (GAs) was integral in building her awareness of “the nations.” At GA camp, a missionary dubbed “Uncle Buddy” gave her a vision for reaching the nations.
“It was my first taste of ‘there are very different people and places around the world that are completely separate from what I experience here,’” Megan said. “Sitting in his sessions was my favorite part of GA camp.”
Looking back, they see that God wove together “pieces of life” to make His will known to them.
“College and seminary students don’t have everything figured out, and that’s okay,” Austin said. “God uses a lot of ‘pieces,’ a lot of things and experiences to clarify His will.”
The couple looks forward to hosting singles and families in their home, being available in informal settings, and building relationships. In the end, they have a single-minded purpose — “We want to see more people take steps to win the nations,” Austin said.
Encouraging others in the process is a great place to start.