On November 16th, 2023, Dad (John Sklenar, founder of BESI) and I (Josie Ehlers, Board Member) were invited by my local church, Sunny Brook Church in Stillwater Oklahoma, to attend The International Conference on Missions (ICOM).  The ICOM exists to encourage, equip, and enlist workers for the harvest. That is Christianese for: getting people prepared as believers in Jesus to meet the spiritual and tangible needs of those who are in need of His love near and far all over the globe. This extensive international conference serves as a connection point for global missions and is more than a five-day event. It includes telling God’s stories, providing resources and uniting the world with missions.  Because Sunny Brook Church purchased a whole church attendance price, anyone associated was able to attend with no cost to the individual. There were also many different teams that went to serve in other ways such as childcare, etc.

The anthem of this year’s ICOM was “Hope for the Nations.” Truly, I can’t imagine a better name to describe the way you come away feeling.  To see hundreds of selfless organizations, families and individuals willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the furthest corners of this planet brought me to tears several times.  Everyone was eager to help point us to the right resources, share information, and encourage us on toward meaningful connections that will assist us at BESI in our main goal. This is to break the cycle of poverty for the children at El-Shaddaih Orphanage and to give them hope in this life and the next. 

Highlights of the conference for me included spending three days of uninterrupted time with my hero. I loved seeing the wonder in my dad’s eyes at all that God is accomplishing in countless places just like Salima, Malawi.  Sometimes it feels like it is the only place on Earth that is in such dire straits. But ICOM showed us that we are not alone, not by a long shot. If you flip on the news, sit on a mainstream college campus or jump on social media, the world will have you believe that God and the church…. are dead. I was not believing that lie, but it was so exciting to see just how false that is. God is living and active and the church is growing, serving and living out its purpose and we were emboldened by standing in the middle of it. It felt like Santa’s workshop with all his workers putting their heads together for one common mission. Not to deliver presents (although sometimes that happens) but to deliver Hope for the Nations. 

Top 3 takeaways from the ICOM:

  1. The Lord builds paths and provision through relationships and the answer is NO if you don’t ask.  We overheard some conversation in an “Accounting for Missionaries” workshop that led us to believe we might just be working in the same area of the world. How unbelievable when we asked, to find out that the sweet young couple was based out of Kentucky and has a mission out of Blantyre Malawi, only a few hours from Salima. We were able to take them to lunch, ask question after question, share stories, hurdles and victories and plan further meetings to gain wise counsel from their experience so far in Blantyre. Please join us in prayer over Akonda Ministries and for the beautiful family of Nathan and Justie Wingfeld as they pursue another trip over in the mission of the Lord.
  2. The good news is that people are generally already “for orphans.” There are few folks who wouldn’t help out if they are able, it is just a matter of reaching the folks that the Lord has planned specifically for our mission and vision. It was mind blowing to see how many organizations are thriving with donor support, and it inspired us to think bigger, farther and more creatively to increase our donor base for BESI.
  3. God never sleeps and he hears every prayer.  He is ever working toward the good of those who love Him, and we must pray that he increases our faith and boldness to keep taking steps…even if there is only enough light for the step we are currently on. We must be constant in prayer, faithfully asking and believing that he cares. This spreads the hope that people need, American and Malawian alike.

Do you want to get involved? Are you inspired? Are you asking yourself if you have anything to offer other than dollars? I can guarantee that if you feel the push to DO something, we can find a job for you. Please consider reaching out, even if it’s just for a video chat or call to hear in person what we are up to. God might have bigger plans than you!



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