For Dewey and Kathie Aiken, their missions field is simply wherever God leads them and opens doors for ministry.
The North Carolina couple has been involved in volunteer missions projects for more than 40 years. They currently serve as on-site coordinators for North Carolina Baptists on Mission with projects in Pennsylvania/South Jersey, New England and Appalachia. Those three partnerships span a total of 13 states.
“Since about 1981, we’ve been involved in volunteer missions, personally leading missions teams each year,” Kathie explained. “That’s become very much a part of us. Our heart is volunteer missions.
“What we’re doing right now is an extension of that,” she shared. After they retired from their professional careers, “the Lord decided for us to take another track of ministry full-time and that’s what we are — full-time missionaries. … We’re able to work closely with pastors, church leaders, listen to their hearts, hear their needs, pray with them, link up those hands with volunteers.”
Dewey said the couple’s life verse is Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.’” Describing that truth as the motivation for their long-term missions service, he added, “We need to share that future and hope with other people.”
Recalling that he and Kathie took their first mission trip four decades ago with the former Home Mission Board, Dewey said, “We were able to take a bunch of inner-city kids from New Orleans out to the east Texas border and spend a week at camp with them. They put us in charge of recreation and we hung out with the kids all week.
“We had the opportunity to lead three of those kids to the Lord,” he added. “After we came back, it was never a question of if we were going to be involved in volunteer missions; it was just where and what.”
Following God’s call
Kathie said one of their major life transitions came in 2002, five years after they took part in a missions trip to New England.
“We realized that we were being led to go back to New England full-time,” she said. Although the timing was delayed for a few years, they eventually were invited to serve as church strengtheners as well as managers for the Calef House and Retreat Center in Washington, Vermont.
“It was an easy transition for us although we were leaving family, leaving careers, leaving church,” Kathie reflected. “It was not a question in our minds about going because we knew that was where God was leading us. And so for the next seven years, we were able to minister there.”
Affirming that “it was a blessing to be with those dear, dear friends,” Kathie added, “Even today, right now, we’ve been reassigned to New England as partnership coordinators and so we’re back where we started 20 years ago.”
As they serve in a variety of ministry settings, Dewey said, “I think it’s kind of amazing because we have to understand that God has given all of us different skills and abilities. … It’s thrilling just to see what God is doing.”
For the past six months, the Aikens have worked closely with the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey, including providing hospitality and logistics coordination for visiting missions teams staying in the network’s Volunteer Mission House. Over the past few years, they also have helped renovate the missions house where they live while on the field.
“You make yourself available to the people, you engage the people and you find yourself very accepted,” Kathie said. “Every day is full, every day is different.
“While we’ve been here in Pennsylvania, we’ve been basically in a different church every Sunday. We’ve enjoyed getting to meet the pastors and visit with the church families.”
Ministry of encouragement
Shannon Baker, director of communications for Pennsylvania/South Jersey, and her husband, Larry, recently launched a new church, Anastasis Fellowship Church in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Citing the Aikens’ prayer ministry on behalf of PA/SJ pastors, spouses and churches, Shannon said the couple “was such an encouragement” as they “came to see our mission field and prayer walked with us.”
“As we engaged people house-to-house, they were positioned down the street, faithfully praying every time we had a conversation with a resident,” she added.
“It was such an exciting day when I later called the Aikens to tell them a resident we had witnessed to that day had just prayed to receive Christ with us,” Shannon said. “The Aikens’ prayer was fruitful! And their prayers didn’t cease.”
Kathie noted that along with offering prayer support and encouragement to pastors coping with discouragement, isolation and other challenges, “we’re firm believers in prayer walking.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, you can walk and you can pray,” she shared. “We need to be doing more and more of that because that’s where the seeds are able to be planted, where the soil has been wet and tilled. That’s where the churches are going to grow.”
Dewey declared, “Serving God is an adventure. He’s got work for us all to do. All He asks us for is obedience.”