Marcus didn’t know what he was in for when he attended the Urbana conference of 2000, still in Urbana, IL, but as a senior in college he already knew he was supposed to go into missions and so off to the missions conference he went. Finding his soul-mate was the last thing he expected and yet…
While at the conference Marcus went to a seminar called “French Speaking Africa” held by Angela Brantley who was and is with SIM. Marcus was deeply moved by Angela’s words and even changed some of his courses during his last semester of college to help serve in French speaking areas of Africa. At the end of the session, as Marcus went up to ask the speaker her name for the evaluations form, a girl named Jenn did the same. Jenn, feeling the same confirmation Marcus felt from Angela’s session, struck up a conversation with Marcus about their time spent in Africa. From the session room to the conference hall, Marcus and Jenn talked about countries like Zimbabwe and Malawi and their common call to French speaking Africa. Finding so many things in common, Marcus and Jenn forgot to eat dinner and instead spent the time praying for each other’s families.
Before the conference, Marcus had made a decision to stay single for a while. So after meeting Jenn he thought, “Well, I’m not interested in girls right now, but it was nice to have someone to talk to.” And yet, like many times in our lives, God had other plans. Jenn was a freshman in college when they met at Urbana 2000, but by the time she graduated college, Marcus and Jenn were married. Marcus lovingly refers to themselves as “the love children of SIM and Urbana.”
But that’s not the end of the story. At Urbana 2003, before their wedding, Marcus and Jenn, still knowing they were supposed to sere in Africa, yet unsure of which agency to go with, wandered into the exhibit hall of the conference hoping to speak with a variety of mission agencies. After speaking to many exhibitors and feeling quite discouraged, Marcus and Jenn wondered if SIM was there as well, and if Angela happened to be there, too. Once finding the SIM booth AND Angela, Marcus and Jenn were able to spend one-on-one time with her away from the crowds. Marcus remembers he and Jenn sitting on a set of bleachers with Angela and her encouraging them to focus on getting married, building a strong foundation in their marriage for a year or so, and then figure out where they were supposed to go and how. Marcus and Jenn were both encouraged by Angela’s loving words and lack of recruitment at that time in their lives. After walking away from that conversation, Marcus and Jenn both “knew” they were going to serve with SIM. “We didn’t know what or how but just by the way she cared for us, we knew we would serve with SIM.”
After being married for two years, Marcus and Jenn went back to Urbana 2006, now in St. Louis for the first time, as SIM missionaries. The goal of the SIM team that year was to “Recruit Without Recruiting”. Marcus remembers meeting with many students who were confused, doubting their faith, or struggling with family. Many times his conversations were spent on those SIM couches praying and crying with people who just needed a listening ear; enjoying every minute of it.
In Early 2007, Marcus and Jenn landed in their first field assignment together in Burkina Faso, Africa. Now, eight year later, Marcus and Jenn live and serve in South Africa. Marcus travels quite a bit with his role as International Projects Coordinator, but this has given Jenn time to do what Marcus refers to as “Lifestyle Ministry”, taking care of their 6 ½ year old son Silas, connecting with women and mom’s in the community, and making sure their home can be a safe haven of hospitality for those who need it; simply being a loving woman of God.
Besides meeting his soul mate at the mission conference, Marcus says very quickly his favorite part of Urbana was the worship, “Worshiping with people from all over in different languages and enjoying a glimpse of Heaven, so to speak, was awesome.” Marcus remembers feeling awe realizing there were so many like-minded people who love the Lord. “Coming from a small town in Switzerland where there weren’t many Christians, to a small high school and a small college in Indiana, and then Urbana where there were more than 20,000 people worshipping together…just experiencing that and dreaming about what is possible. Even if only 7,000 of these 20,000 people go into missions, I thought, ‘Wow. What a workforce!’”
Marcus not only recommends Urbana for students who might be interested in missions, but also for missionaries on home assignment. He believes it is a hugely positive event for anyone in the missions world! And for those who are attending Urbana who might not have an agency or someone considering cross-cultural missions, Marcus strongly recommends that you stay firm to your calling. “Explore what God is saying and always allow God to direct you to a greater calling, but hold on to what He has already placed upon your heart.” He will not lead you astray.