In July of this year, the Gage family (Andy, Lauren, Annalea, Bowen, Tatum, and Flint) went to Thailand to serve missionary families at the Beyond global conference. This was the first time Andy and Lauren were able to bring their children to this conference. Additionally, the Gages were joined by Zach and Madelynne Starbeck (Park College Staff and Park Students Intern). After spending time with Lauren this week and Zach and Madelynne the week after the trip, we’re excited to share this recap of their trip with the Park Church family!
To learn more about Beyond and their conference, please see our article from Wednesday, June 15.
Early Complications Turned into Opportunities
Before this conference, Beyond had not met as a complete organization in five years. Lauren and Andy were each able to doing ongoing work with missionaries in spite of this, but the opportunity to work with them in-person at this conference was so significant. However, Beyond had also prioritized in-person elements after these five years, so the conference was especially packed with content for missionaries and families. Lauren wondered how much opportunity she and Andy would actually have to meet with people for counseling and physical therapy.
“I knew God would use our kids and the Starbecks!” Lauren shared. Adults aside, there was going to be plenty of time at the conference for community building and camaraderie between missionary kids, and this was a primary goal for the trip. Zach and Madelynne were there with the express purpose of loving on all the kids, and were given more opportunities than they probably anticipated! “People kept on commenting on them,” said Lauren. Zach and Madelynne shared about so many pool games, conversations, and exhausting times of fun with both the Gage kids and the many missionary kids at the conference.
But after only two days of the conference, a COVID-19 outbreak amongst the attendees shut down all of the programming for the rest of the event. This was a really disappointing outcome for many, but created a lot of new space for the work Lauren and Andy had prepared. “Suddenly I went from having a counseling meeting here and there to being booked back-to-back with meetings.”
A Few Stories of God’s Work
Although there is much more to share, here are some quick, specific stories of some things God did:
- A missionary from Cambodia with a shoulder issue got much-needed Physical Therapy from Andy. She had no access to Physical Therapy in Cambodia.
- A missionary from Egypt was prompted by a dream the night before to process specific traumas with Lauren.
- A missionary kid loved his time of interaction with the Gages and Starbecks. He said he felt “normal” with them, which is significant for a “third culture kid” (a term that describes how children of missionaries don’t belong to their “home” culture or “field” culture).
- Annalea Gage, on the other hand, shared how the acceptance and communal mindset of the missionary kid community was especially impactful in this place where she felt far from “normal!”
- There are many single women in the community of missionaries at Beyond. One in particular was moved to tears simply by Lauren’s hand on her shoulder. “The physical touch of someone who is there for you like a mom or dad is a missing element,” Lauren shared.
- Several missionaries engaged with Lauren on the basis of who they were as individuals in Christ, discussing freedom in obedience to the Lord apart from the often-celebrated numerical data (salvations, baptisms, etc).
Specific Prayers Answered Specifically
One of the key themes of the trip was how specifically certain prayers were answered. For example, the international flight with four children was a daunting way to get started. A staff member at Park Church had prayed over the Gages that their travel would simply “be easy,” and Lauren reflected that it really was. Lauren had also prayed for opportunities to counsel missionaries who were struggling in their own faith, knowing how isolating that would be as a missionary. She was able to have many such conversations with missionaries in this place.
“It kind of freaks me out. Like I could pray anything and it would happen.”
Wrapping it Up
Other moments stand out—like quality family time for the Gages before the conference, Chiangmai adventures for the Starbecks, and singing “How Great Are His Signs” (a Park Kids Club memory verse song) with their driver-turned-friend, Dom. But to wrap up, the unique opportunity for these two families to serve so many missionaries in the specific, needed ways of physical therapy, counseling, and friendship was incredible.
Going forward from here, the Gages could still use financial support for the trip. They were cleared to go only a few weeks before the event and thus had much less time than normal to raise support. To give financially, please use the button below, selecting “Support for Lauren Gage and Missions Care Trip” under “Gift Category.”