(Editor's Note: Today's guest writer is Addie Grace Putnam. Addie is currently attending college and interning for The Stand. This article was published first in the May 2022 edition of The Stand print version.)
“I have the greatest job in the world,” declared Michael McCarty, president of International Outreach Ministries (IOM). “I serve heroes.”
Heroes such as Timo and Alison Rosenbach, who serve the people of Germany through a radio ministry. Heroes like Charlyn and Enrique Mejia, who welcome the street children of Costa Rica into their home and provide them with a stable parent-child relationship. Heroes like Sokion and Katie Ki, who serve in Cambodia through an international school and help local churches to teach the Bible.
Heroes like Michael and Emma Kenyon, a missionary couple working with Hard Places Community, an IOM partner ministry in Cambodia. This husband-and-wife team uses their unique gifts as a chef and an artist, respectively, to share the gospel with the hurting people of Cambodia.
Michael equips young men with cooking skills that will enable them to find wholesome employment while Emma is the head of an arts community center, where she leads art classes as a means of bringing healing to victims in the sex trade.
These families are only a few of the missionaries being served by IOM to spread the gospel among the nations.
Giving for going
“We do two things,” McCarty shared. “We provide financial, fiduciary accountability to donors and to missionary associates.” Put simply, this means IOM ensures the money donors give goes to an actual ministry.
“The second thing we do,” McCarty went on, “is we provide relational encouragement.” For him, this involves visiting missionaries in their countries of service and making sure they’re as effective as possible in their ministry. Often, this means giving a week or two off for vacation.
“Of course [missionaries] shouldn’t be the only people in the world who aren’t allowed to go on holiday,” McCarty
“We’re not a sending organization,” he added emphatically. “We call ourselves a service support organization.” The ministry exists to handle the financial aspect of missions work, enabling the missionaries to focus on their primary purpose for being overseas by providing funds to supplement what the missionaries themselves and their sending churches are able to raise. IOM may also fund overseas ministries where IOM missionaries serve.
It is unique among similar agencies because of its willingness to assist families with young children. “A lot of missions organizations only accept families with teenagers,” McCarty explained. “If it seems to be a solid home, then that’s the main factor for us.”
IOM was founded about 35 years ago by Paul Petrie, who would eventually go on to become a missionary to Belgium. He recognized the need among smaller churches for financial assistance in sending out missionaries and founded IOM to help churches meet these crucial needs. It is a non-profit agency headquartered in McComb, Mississippi.
Strategies for serving
IOM is strategic and intentional about the missionaries it selects for support. While the ministry is non-denominational, it does require all potential missionaries to go through a thorough application process complete with a background check and a personal interview with either McCarty or one of the other board members. During the interview, applicants are asked about their previous missions experience and their reasoning for wanting to go overseas.
Operationally, IOM’s strategy is to partner with ministries that already exist in foreign countries. Hard Places Community has missionary locations in several countries including its significant presence in Cambodia where IOM missionary Alli Mellon leads ministries to reach those who are involved in human trafficking and sex trafficking. The missions team there also works with street children, helping them get into a stable home. Several IOM missionaries serve there.
Another key IOM partner is the Kenya Ministry Training Institute (KMTI), which teaches Kenyan believers how to read the Bible and live according to biblical principles.
A key issue among believers in Kenya is lack of discipleship, but IOM missionary Larry Neese and the staff of KMTI are determined to change that. Their training isn’t limited to theological matters; part of it involves things like teaching the men to be monogamous. The institute ultimately helps raise up leaders who will train other leaders.
Relationships are at the heart of IOM’s ministry. “I know all of our missionaries by name,” McCarty shared, “and I know their kids.” Each board member is assigned a specific group of [single or family] missionary units to pray for and help in whatever capacity is needed, including leading teams to the field to help with projects. The board members take an active role in the lives of their assigned missionaries.
This relational aspect of IOM is possible only because of the small size of the organization. McCarty and the other board members are passionate about establishing a personal connection with each of their missionary units.
“If you told me today we had two more missionaries that wanted to join IOM,” McCarty told The Stand, “I would say, ‘Let me make sure I can care for them first.’” If the ministry couldn’t give a new applicant the same level of support as their other missionaries, IOM would encourage the applicant to look at other organizations.
In a true testament to God’s grace, IOM has not been greatly impacted by the continuing COVID crisis. “Our total donations haven’t gone down at all,” McCarty said. “We’ve been able to fund everything that’s before us, just like we always have.”
Some missionaries have been more affected by COVID than others. For example, one family recently returned to their country of service and had to quarantine for a few days upon re-entry due to 10 people from their plane testing positive.
“But that’s more of a nuisance,” McCarty stated. “I think of the apostle Paul being shipwrecked. Having to delay five days in a hotel – it’s not the worst thing that can happen to you.”
Fortunately, even through the pandemic, IOM and its missionaries have been able to press forward with the gospel.
The ministry’s goal has never been to shoot for a specific set of numbers, but it has grown without any planned effort on its own. Fifteen years ago, twelve missionary units were serving with IOM; that number has since increased to about 100.
IOM continues strong in its mission to share the gospel in some of the hardest places in the world: to send 1 gospel to 26 nations in 7 world regions by 100 heroes.
Meet IOM missionaries
To provide financial support and services to missionaries, IOM depends on donations. President Michael McCarty encourages readers to spend some time on the website (iom-online.com) and meet the missionaries. To read about each family or missionary funded by IOM, click on the “Missionaries” tab. Every month, each missionary receives a report of who gave to help them share the gospel. All gifts to IOM are tax-deductible.
Core values spotlight
Reporting on such gospel outreaches as International Outreach Ministries illustrates AFA’s first core value – Evangelism and discipleship: AFA aims to evangelize the lost and disciple the believer. Learn more at afa.net.