News & Events
MHC Alums Commissioned as Missionaries to Chile
In the coming months, Blake and Rebekah (“Bekah”) Hart will leave everything they know—family, friends, culture, language, habits and home—to make a life in the mountainous desert region of Chile. The journey the Harts are taking is not a vacation, nor is it a sight-seeing trip, but it will be the adventure of a lifetime and the realization of a dream that began during their senior year at Mars Hill College.
In July, Blake and Bekah were commissioned by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) as field personnel (missionaries) to Chile. Bekah will be working to reconnect families and create extracurricular programs for children at a government boarding school, while Blake will be doing pastoral training in connection with the Baptist Seminary’s satellite campus nearby. Though they approach the work as a team, their jobs on the mission field will be very different, a situation that the Harts find fitting for their personalities.
“We’re very different people, quite opposite,” Bekah said, laughing. “So it’s good that the things we’ll be doing day-to-day are also very different.”
Bekah’s extroverted, talkative nature makes her a natural for meeting the needs of children and their families. The difficult, agrarian life of the people in the Chilean desert makes caring for their children difficult, Bekah said. Parents who want an education for their children often send them to boarding school when they are 6 or 7 years old.
“They don’t see them on their birthdays; they don’t see them at Christmas. That’s it,” she said. Given the almost impossible transportation situation in the area, the parents may not see their children again until they complete their schooling.
“So, I’ll just try to love the kids, create some more structure for them, and get them reconnected to their families,” she said.
Blake’s introspective personality makes him more at home with the studious work of a seminarian and teacher. Currently, there are only three Baptist pastors in the northern part of Chile. Of those, only one works with the indigenous Aymara people. That one missionary serves an area with a population of around 48,000.
“So, he needs some help,” Blake said.
“Because there are so few pastors, there is not a lot of discipleship going on in northern Chile. Discipleship in northern Chile right now basically means being given an audio bible in their native language. One of the primary things I’ll be doing is training church pastors and developing leaders in local churches, so that they can then teach people what it means to be a Christian,” he said.
In addition to these primary jobs, the couple will be working to improve access to clean water, health care and education for their new Chilean neighbors.
Recently, the Harts took the time to talk about the unexpected twists that led them to a missions vocation. Looking back, Blake and Bekah see their years in Mars Hill College not just as the time when they found each other, but as a time when they found the calling for their lives.
“The people we were when we started at Mars Hill are basically gone, because our experiences there completely transformed both of us,” Bekah said.
Blake said he entered Mars Hill a bit apprehensive that education would cause him to question his faith. Instead, he feels that the challenge of his classes, together with a solid foundation from his home church and ongoing worship experiences at Weaverville First Baptist Church (where Blake served as youth pastor during his college years), caused him to grow as a Christian.
“It stretches you, and causes you to confront what it means to live as a Christian, to be shaped by a new understanding of what it means to be Christian and what it means to be a follower of Christ,” he said.
Although college was a transformational time for both of them, their personal journeys were indeed individual.
“I had no plans to go into ministry when I was in college,” Bekah said. “As a matter of fact, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.”
Bekah, a native of Waxaw, NC (near Charlotte), changed her major several times before settling on a double major of history and Spanish. It was during a mission trip with the Mars Hill College Christian Student Movement to work in a Honduran orphanage that Bekah began to fall in love with ministering to children.
At the time, she had already planned another short-term mission trip to Ecuador after graduation, and the trips built on one another as she tried to determine how she would live a life of purpose and meaning.
“It seemed that missions was the theme of our senior year,” Bekah said recently. “That year, and especially the Honduras trip, really confirmed for me that going to Ecuador to work with children was the right thing to do. The trip was very instrumental for me,” she said.
After graduation in 2007, Bekah went to Ecuador for what she thought was a short-term mission trip to prepare for grad school. Her trip was to be an 8-month immersion experience in Spanish before she sought a master’s degree.
“I went to Ecuador to prepare for grad school,” Bekah said. “but while I was there, I became convinced that this was what I wanted to do with my life. So, Ecuador became, not preparation for grad school, but preparation for my life as a missionary.”
Blake’s story is a bit different. “For a long time, I felt called to ministry of some sort, and that began when I was in youth group in my church,” he said.
A native of Black Mountain, Blake did not search far to find a college, but he did spend the time in searching for his purpose, and trying to confirm what kind of ministry God wanted for him.
“I was probably a sophomore or junior in college when I started thinking that missions might be the direction for my life. And that thought process was related to a lot of issues that confronted me that I’d never thought of before. I just couldn’t see the things that I saw, suffering, oppression, and other problems in the world, and walk away and live my life as I always had,” he said.
As it was for Bekah, the CSM Honduras trip was instrumental in shaping his future goals. “I think senior year was when missions was solidified as a calling on my life, and while I was in Honduras, I began to realize that my calling was to work in Latin America specifically,” he said.
Blake graduated from Mars Hill in 2007 with a double major in religion and Spanish. Like Bekah, he chose Ecuador for a short-term mission trip after graduation, but he served in a different area of the country. While Blake had already settled on ministry as his planned career, the ten months he spent in Ecuador was confirmation of his calling to serve as a missionary in Latin America.
And Ecuador had yet one more surprise in store for Blake and Bekah. They were unprepared for how much they missed each other.
“We were dating at Mars Hill, but marriage didn’t cross our minds until we were apart. Then, later we found out that we had both been thinking: ‘life was so much better with you in it!’” Bekah said.
It wasn’t long after they came back to the United States that Blake and Bekah started planning a life together. They were married on August 9, 2008. They currently live in Atlanta, Georgia.
Blake and Bekah see their separate calling as even more verification of their joint purpose. “I’d rather it be that way,” Bekah said. “We work so much better together because we both want this.”
As they prepare for the move to Chile, the Harts are involved in raising the money it will take to support their ministry. It is a prospect they are finding somewhat daunting. A couple of churches have agreed to put them in their budgets, but they are also sending out numerous support letters to churches and individuals.
“We had no idea how much it costs to be a missionary,” Bekah said. “The mission trips we took in college were comparatively pretty cheap. But when you consider living there, and doing ministry there, and buying insurance and having salaries and living expenses, that takes more money than we realized.”
CBF has appointed the Harts for the three-year initial term in the field. At that point, Blake said, they will reevaluate, see how the work is going, if the ministry is self-sustainable or if it requires more of their time, and find out if there is enough funding to continue their ministry.
“We want this to be a lifestyle, a vocation, but we’ll just have to see how God works that out for us,” he said.
Follow the Harts as they document preparing for Chile on their blog, Desert Journeys, thehartbeat.wordpress.com.