Tankersleys back home after spending time abroad

By ROSS BROWN
bluehavanaross@gmail.com


GIBSON CITY — In June 2006, Gibson City residents said goodbye to Doug and Cindy Tankersley.

The Tankserleys — Doug a State Farm employee and Cindy a first-grade teacher at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Elementary School — sold their house and moved with their sons, David and Jonathan, to Quito, Ecuador, to begin their new journey as an international missionary family with One Mission Society (OMS). Doug worked with a number of churches in the South American country while Cindy taught schoolchildren at the Alliance Academy International Christian School.

Following a five-year stay in Ecuador, the Tankersleys returned to Gibson City in 2010, becoming regional directors with Men for Missions, an OMS group that organizes both long- and short-term missions in foreign countries. Doug and Cindy worked with several short-term mission teams in Central and South America, including a stay in Costa Rica.

After their youngest son graduated from high school in 2014, the couple moved to Colombia, where they continued coordinating Christian mission projects with several churches in that area.

When OMS decided that its Colombian partners had enough resources to operate independently, the Tankersleys returned to the U.S. Since November, they have been living near their son’s home in Peoria, where they continue their work with Men for Missions while enjoying their newborn grandson.

On Sunday, Doug and Cindy spoke at the Gibson City Bible Church (GCBC), their home congregation, and gave the Sunday sermon to talk about their journey and time in Colombia.

For Doug and Cindy, the journey to becoming foreign missionaries came after a short-term trip to Guatemala with other GCBC members in 2001. Cindy said she realized that her husband seemed destined to have a career in that field.

“When he came back, I knew something was different,” she said. “I knew that God had called him to serve as a career missionary.”

Still, it was three more years before they sought out OMS about becoming a missionary family. She said a service at the church set her toward the mission field.

“I was a teacher. I was pretty content with my life here, and it was three years later in a missions service where God touched my heart over and over again through that service, and I knew it was time,” she said.

The decision to leave their family, friends and church members behind to settle in an area they were not familiar with was quite difficult.

“For us, it meant surrendering my first grade position,” Cindy said. “It meant surrendering our home that I thought we would retire in. It meant taking our kids to a foreign land that I didn’t know about. But that’s what God called us and equipped us to do.”

While Doug worked with OMS in Ecuador, a nation located on the Equator in the northwest part of South America, Cindy taught school children in the capitol city.

“God opened the door for me to teach, which was a great blessing for me,” she said.

***********

Upon leaving the U.S. in 2014, the Tankersleys spent much of their time living in Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city. Doug noted the nation’s reputation as a war-torn area, but he said things have improved greatly in the last 20 years.

“OMS actually started in Colombia in 1943 but had to leave due to the violence that took place there,” he said. “Cindy and I were actually the first OMS missionaries to go back into Colombia in about 15 years. It was once known as the murder capital of the world, but it’s much better now.”

The couple’s living conditions in Medellin were less than ideal compared with life back home, but Cindy mentioned that she once hosted a large group inside their home, which was amazing because it was incredibly small.

“We had three bedrooms, two baths and a kitchen — all under 600 square feet,” Doug said.

Doug said his primary position was to evangelize and spread the gospel to unbelievers in the city. A great deal of that was spent on street preaching, where OMS team members would speak to a small group of people on the streets of Medellin, then write down personal information and send that to a local church. They would also pray with the groups about committing lives to Christ.

“Since 2012, we’ve had 26 evangelism teams that have come from the U.S. and Canada,” he said. “That’s 213 short-term team members, and we’ve had over 10,000 decisions at doors in the streets of people praying to make a decision for Christ. In a lot of cases, we’re in a room with a whole lot of people, and as soon as we’re done we provide them the tools to go out and share the gospel with others.

“Last year alone, we had 10 evangelism teams, 77 short-term team members come to the field and 3,000 decisions in just close to one year. That’s all what the Lord is doing, and we’re just a small part of it.”

When team members finished praying with individuals, Doug said they would send the list of individuals to a partner congregation in the area. That church then had 48 hours to respond and contact all of the people listed and encourage them to walk in their Christian lives.

He said that OMS visited churches to see how they were doing with their work, as well as getting feedback on how his ministry could be improved.

“We visited 53 churches last year alone, and we would follow up with them to ask what we could do differently,” he said.

Doug said one of the central goals of his organization is to plant churches in the city. Within that goal, the churches themselves would be responsible for sharing the gospel throughout Colombia.

“The impact that our team was on that church today continues to play a huge role,” he said. “That church is replicating that team. They are traveling throughout the city and training other church on how to do the same model of evangelism there. Just our team showing up was a huge testimony to them.

“In the last year alone, close to 15,000 people were reached with the gospel, 2,700 house churches were started and 314 actual churches were planted,” he added.

One of OMS’s projects in Colombia is aptly named Satura, short for “saturation,” of which the goal is to saturate the entire South American area with the gospel. Doug said Satura is branching out into other nations as well as its Colombian base.

“Satura is actually growing into Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama and El Salvador,” he said. They (the people) are not just pushing but discovering Satura and what it can do for them.”

***********

Toward the end of 2017, Doug and Cindy decided to return to Central Illinois once their goals for Colombia had been met.

“We actually had to leave Colombia because we went there for the purpose of helping to train teams, and they are now ready with 13 facilitators in cities ready to receive others,” Doug said. “We just had our first evangelism team in Colombia that came off of the field yesterday, and Cindy and I didn’t have to do anything. We don’t want to be part of a dependency. We want to get things going and then hand it off to them.”

“It’s great to see local teams go in there and share the Gospel,” Cindy said. “We worked ourselves out of a job, which is a good thing. We coordinated all these teams and see each piece be a vital role.”

Since their return to the area, the couple have been continuing their work with OMS and Men for Missions, where they serve with other missions to facilitate trips to the nations OMS is involved in.

“As Satura pushed into other countries, we’ll be looking at bringing teams into Mexico and other South American countries,” Doug Tankersley said. “Venezuela is too violent right now, but the Colombians are forming their own teams to go to countries such as Ecuador.”

Cindy said she has been surprised on more than one occasion to witness how open the children of Colombia are to the Bible and the message of Christ.

“I used to be shocked when kids would ask to receive God through prayer,” she said. “It’s exciting stuff, and now after going door-to-door once a month it’s hard when they say ‘no.’”

One of OMS’s goals is to send teams from both the U.S. and Canada into South and Central America to share short-term trips there and evangelize those lands, and both Doug and Cindy are working on that.

The couple encouraged others to join them on the mission field in either a short-term or a long-term capacity.

“Evangelism is seen as scary, but we haven’t had anyone who didn’t enjoy their experience,” Doug said. “In fact, we’ve had some who have gone back three and four times.”

Cindy said she has been strengthened by her journey over the last few years.

“It’s great to be in Bible study and in prayer, but sometimes our spiritual growth comes from not just filling up but also sending out,” she said.

The couple thanked the church and its members for supporting them financially and prayerfully throughout their time away from the area. The GCBC spends about $90,000 of its more than $550,000 annual budget on a variety of national and international missions. On Sunday it was announced that church member Josh Hohulin would be joining OMS as part of its Action magazine, which is published quarterly.

Doug and Cindy said they enjoyed their experience in South America, and that they would continue to see where God leads them next.

“We spent our time on a mountaintop, and it was a great place to be,” Cindy said.

Readers can provide financial support Doug and Cindy Tankersley by visiting https://onemissionsociety.org/give/TheTankersleys.

Categories (3):News, Living, Religion

Comments

The Paxton Record embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. we reserve the right to remove any comment at its discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments