Change Agents: Pat and Ardyce Worsley

June 3, 2024 | 14 minute read
The Alliance Canada

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Who could ever imagine God would direct people from Communist Mainland China to go to the Arabian Peninsula, the heart of the Muslim world, and give them the opportunity to hear the good news of the Gospel? They, in turn, would believe in the Lord Jesus and be baptized by the hundreds, yes, even the thousands! This happened towards the end of our international ministry, but we have also experienced other examples of seeing God at work throughout our journey, which officially began in 1972. 

The Early Years 

I was not born into a Bible-believing Christian home. At the age of ten, in a small rural church, I committed my life to Christ and shortly after that had my first cross-cultural involvement when this small church conducted services at the nearby First Nations reserve on Sunday afternoons. 

In contrast, Ardyce was raised in a Christian home and had exposure to missions early in life through First Alliance Church in Calgary and a cousin who served in Africa with the SIM mission agency. Much later in life, Ardyce learned she was destined to be a missionary; her mother had promised God her first child would be a missionary to fulfill a personal vow and desire she had not been able to honour. 

God’s calling intensified when I was a high school senior listening to missionary speakers. I determined to serve God where the workers were few. After one year at the University of Calgary, I worked for five years as a power plant engineer to gain a trade, save some money, and begin preparation for overseas service. Because of a mechanical inclination, I thought God might use me as a missionary pilot, and so while working, I also obtained a private pilot’s license. 

Ardyce sensed a call to be a medical missionary, a doctor, but other options influenced her to become a registered nurse instead. After we were married in 1965, we saw God close the door, which would have allowed service in mission aviation; still, during a mission’s service at First Alliance, it was confirmed to both of us that God was calling us to overseas ministry. Thus, open to see how and where God would use us, we pursued theological training at Canadian Bible College (CBC). 

We were already twenty-four years old when we started at CBC and were eager to complete our studies quickly and be on our way. But, as God often does, He did not reveal the complete journey all at once, instead leading us step by step. My studies were extended to include graduate work. I had the privilege of being part of the first graduating class of Canadian Theological Seminary in 1972 when I earned a Master of Divinity. By the time our two years of required home service were completed, preparation had consumed eight years (I also took a BA in History at the University of Regina). We were pushing the stipulated maximum age limit of thirty-two and had added a chosen son to our family. 

I had developed an interest in India, while Ardyce had a yearning for Africa. Still, we expressed to our mission leadership a willingness to serve wherever they thought the need was greatest. We were tentatively appointed to Indonesia, and I did my area study with that as our goal. 

Because of earlier political decisions in the region, The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) had two offices, two field directors, and two large teams of workers in Indonesia. When Indonesia claimed independence in 1947, the Dutch continued to retain the western half of the island of New Guinea, which was known as Dutch New Guinea, later becoming West Irian and, still later, Irian Jaya. By 1974, Irian Jaya was a part of Indonesia, but the mission retained two fields with an office in Jakarta and an office in Jayapura. Our preliminary appointment had us assigned to somewhere under the Jakarta office’s administration. Only months before our deployment, we were asked to consider a change and ultimately were sent to Irian Jaya (now Papua), Indonesia. 

Arriving in Indonesia 

The challenges of the first months and years are often determining factors in whether you endure or quit. Some of those challenges included an air freight shipment that did not arrive for six months, labour disputes resulting in no mail or communication from home for two months, language learning, and isolation from other English speakers. Also, a total of seventeen babies and small children died in Ardyce’s arms while she was helpless due to lack of equipment or because help was sought too late. Through it all, God was faithful, and our commitment to Him allowed us to persevere.

First-term language study always provides some interesting and challenging moments. Our field leadership decided we should study a tribal language before the national language. Their reasoning was the tribal language was more complex, and our study would benefit from the unspoiled new energy we would bring to the task. 

I enjoyed the practical application of language learning and took the opportunity to go with the men, talking with them while sharing their various activities. There were days we went high in the jungle and I saw them making a dugout canoe. This trip taught me a great lesson in gratitude when two tribal men took the pre-cooked sweet potatoes from their net bags and gave thanks before eating during the lunch break. I recalled instances in the church where I served before departing to Indonesia. When refreshments were served, we would flippantly say, “It isn’t worth twenty-five cents,” and then not pray. But in the village where we now lived, you could get a large net bag of sweet potatoes for twenty-five cents, and here these men were expressing their gratitude to God for their sweet potato lunch worth less than a penny. I determined I wanted to express my gratitude to God whenever the opportunity occurred. 

During our second year of tribal language study, we found ourselves in a larger village with several locals who knew Indonesian, the national language, but did not know the tribal language of the region. As a result, we experienced the humbling situation of using our four-year-old son as our interpreter because he had learned the tribal language and quickly picked up some Indonesian in our new location. 

Upon completing tribal language study in 1976, we were assigned to district ministries, which meant assisting the leaders, pastors, and churches in six districts formed by the National Church known as the Gospel Tabernacle Church of Indonesia (Gereja Kemah Injil Indonesia – GKII). This meant providing in-service training and upgrading for numerous pastors who faithfully served their congregations with minimal theological education. Their only formal education was four years of study at a tribal language Bible school. Although their study was limited, I believe the developed training was used and blessed by God to see His church grow in amazing ways. 

The people of this island were of oral tradition with no written language and no literate nationals prior to the arrival of missionaries. One of the first tasks of those who had preceded us was to analyze the language and begin Bible translation. As missionaries learned the various languages, even before much Bible translation was completed, they began to share the Gospel by telling Bible stories. This developed into what was known as the Witness School, where each week, a missionary would teach selected leaders a biblical truth through a story and then send them back to their villages to re-tell it. Thus, the Gospel was quickly spread into the villages through native speakers. 

As linguists analyzed the language and created a script and written language, they produced primers and taught people how to read. Later, the Scriptures and other materials became available in the tribal languages, and Level One tribal language Bible schools began with a more formal western-style education. As secular education was introduced, Bible training building on each successive level of secular studies was presented. 

At the time of our arrival in 1974, each of the churches in our region had a national pastor, but most of them had only Level One training. As their culture was rapidly changing, there was a great need to upgrade their education or to have what we have come to know as life-long learning. This was done via modular seminars and classes. The mission’s primary focus was church planting. Still, when we began our work in Indonesia, biblical training and administrative instruction were key elements because churches were being planted by national workers. 

Our ministry was always wholistic with church planting as our primary goal, but development and compassion ministries were important. Ardyce produced Sunday school materials in the tribal language while also providing regular medical treatment and health teaching at all of our outposts. I assisted with developing co-operatives (small shops selling basic merchandise at a fair price) in each church district along with agricultural improvement through seed, rabbit, and bee distribution and training. 

Unfortunately, the introduction of new ideas and methods is not accepted or utilized as quickly or readily as one might think and desire; we experienced this numerous times. For example, Ardyce worked with the local Indonesian doctor and hospital staff to teach health and nutrition in the tribal language so all the material could be clearly understood. After, participants were asked if they would prepare the available protein-rich foods to improve the health of their malnourished children. They either thought it was too much work or wanted to sell the products to pay for things they determined to be a higher priority, such as children’s schooling. 

The same was true of simple agricultural changes. Why should they keep rabbits in hutches and bring food to them when the rabbits could be left on the ground free to find their own food? The only problem with this was the rabbits did not reproduce at the same rate, and most of the offspring died due to poor nesting situations. We did not give up, but we came to realize that some of these changes were going to take a generation rather than just a few weeks or months. 

Missionary work always comes with difficulties and challenges. For many in the isolated parts of Irian Jaya, the missionary children’s education was challenging because the mission required all school children to attend the mission-run boarding school. National schools and homeschooling were not options. Fortunately for us, our son, Rob, was eager to go off to boarding school for grade one at the age of six. He was very disappointed when the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) plane could not pick him up because of a tragic MAF plane crash at another station in the province. Rob was worried he was going to be late for school. His disappointment paled in comparison to that of a second-grade girl. She arrived at the school on time only to find out her entire family—Dad, Mom, and two siblings—had all died in a plane crash a short time after she had been dropped off in the village of Wamena to make her flight on to school. For Moms and Dads, the difficulty and heartache occurred when your child was homesick, sick, or having some other challenge and you were far away, not able to comfort and console, not able to do anything except pray. 

In 1978, we completed our first term and returned to Calgary for home assignment. As we visited churches, many people commented on the sacrifices we had made living in isolated areas with limited communication options while needing to send our son off to boarding school for extended periods. Jesus said to be His followers, we need to take up our cross and follow Him, but we did not see our living conditions as great sacrifices. 

I came to believe one of the greatest sacrifices I had to make was during home assignment. Our son Rob wanted to play hockey, so during the summer and fall we went from arena to arena where there was artificial ice and public skating so he could learn to skate like a seven-year-old Canadian kid. He did well and was ready to play on a team as the season began. The real sacrifice came during a home assignment when Dad wanted to see his boy play hockey and be at his awards banquet but instead was away from home on a twelve-week ministry tour. 

Continuing Ministry 

The beginning of our second term again saw us in language study, this time in Bandung, Indonesia, to study Indonesian, which was the national language. We studied for six months as Rob completed his first semester in the third grade at the mission-operated Bandung International School. Upon our return to Papua, we went back to the city of Enarotali and continued our district ministries amidst blessings and challenges. 

A plane crash in 1981 became one of those difficult and challenging times. In Irian Jaya (Papua), we were very dependent on MAF for all our transportation needs because there were no roads in the rugged mountainous highlands where we lived and worked. Airstrips were built on mountain slopes, and flying conditions were always challenging because of rapidly changing weather conditions. 

On one occasion, we departed from a station in the Baliem Valley where I had done an internal financial audit. We were on our way to visit our son Rob at his boarding school in Sentani when the six-seat MAF Cessna aircraft had engine failure. We crashed into sweet-potato gardens in the valley. The pilot and I received only minor injuries. Ardyce received multiple fractures because her seat came loose, and she was thrown around the cabin of the plane as we crash-landed, ultimately coming to rest with the plane upside down. We received many notes of encouragement and some speculation about the possible cause of the accident from our colleagues. We strongly believed God spared our lives because He had something more for us to do here on earth and in Indonesia. 

In 1986, I was selected by my colleagues to become the field leader. My role changed dramatically from teaching and development to one of leadership and administration. I worked closely with government officials of the province, the leadership of our missionary children’s school, the provincial leadership of the National Church, and the leadership of eight other evangelical mission organizations working together in Irian Jaya with clear parity agreements. 

It was a wonderful experience to see how God blessed the ministries of all these missions and their personnel as we worked independently in designated regions and cooperatively in areas of ministry common to all the regions. For example, linguists organized workshops where all the linguists would come together to work on their common translation challenges in individual language projects. There was also cooperation by the various missions in providing transportation, radio communication, medical services, missionary kid (MK) education, material publication, and document services. 

During this period, the missionary force numbered from sixty to seventy individuals, depending on home assignment absences at any given time. The National Church included nearly 156,000 in 724 churches. While I served as field leader, more and more young people were making their way to the coastal cities to pursue higher education. Thus, youth ministries became an important focus, with a full-time missionary using the national language to minister to students from various tribes. Because a central location was difficult to secure, we used temporary structures on our office’s flat roof to reach and disciple numerous young people. 

One youth-related incident stands out in my memory. It was a Monday when Ardyce and I served at the MK (missionary kid) school dorm so the dorm parents could have a day off. They made their way from Sentani to Jayapura, a distance of about forty kilometres, on their motorcycle. On the way back to the school, they were in a serious accident, being hit by an army jeep driven by a teenager without a license and without his soldier father’s permission. This young man was clearly at fault and destined to jail, but the police asked what punishment we desired to see. I suggested this young offender not be required to do jail time but instead be put on probation and required to attend our youth program for a specified period while being accountable to our youth worker. This recommendation was approved. During the ensuing weeks, this young man and many of his friends gave their lives to the Lord. 

Later, some of the young church leaders who had the privilege of obtaining graduate and post-graduate degrees outside the country believed it was time for the regional church to have its own college-level theological school in Irian Jaya. Here Irianese could obtain baccalaureate degrees without having to leave family and home. For many years I wondered why I had spent the extra years getting a graduate seminary degree. Now the reason was revealed as those degrees were necessary for the college to meet accreditation requirements. I served the college as an adjunct professor, teaching one class each semester in a one-week module format. This position meant class preparation and marking papers filled all my waiting hours at airports, between meetings, and any other time not taken by the urgent needs of the mission, the church, and other personnel. 

Many memories were made during those years as I experienced emergencies, celebrations, misunderstandings, and accomplished goals. We missionaries often express our ultimate goal is to work ourselves out of a job, which is often more easily said than done. I soon realized it is much easier and desirable to grow larger in function rather than smaller! During the late 1980s and the early 1990s, field ministry evaluations were typical, and the concept of redeployment was coming into vogue to reach the least reached with the Gospel. Thus, retiring missionaries were not replaced, some MK school staff were transferred to other schools, and the MK school, which had been operated by the C&MA, began including other mission agencies. During this period, much time and effort were spent trying to secure property deeds so mission assets could be turned over to the National Church for their ongoing ministries. 

By 1994, many of these tasks were completed; various circumstances caused us to consider a transition. Two significant factors included an ageing mother who needed support and the invitation from the Western Canadian District of the C&MA in Canada to fill the district missions consultant’s role. 

Ministry in Canada 

We worked out of the district office in Calgary for the next six years and initiated what was to become the cluster model for home assignment ministry. This was an effort to enhance the relationship of a missionary with a set cluster of churches. This meant the missionary was not required to be away from his/her family for extended periods as the previous linear tours had demanded. The change initially met with some resistance from the churches and the missionaries but eventually gained increasing favour. 

Our plan had always been to finish our career in an overseas cross-cultural setting. Yet, each time the National Ministry Centre contacted us with a possible new assignment during our years in the district, we felt God’s check in our hearts telling us this was not His time. But, in January 1999, when we were asked to consider giving leadership to a new C&MA team being formed for the Arabian Peninsula, we both felt an inner urge saying this was God’s plan. Events over the next year confirmed this direction. 

United Arab Emirates 

In July 2000, we began preparing to move to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). We arrived in Dubai in February 2001 and started some of the most exciting and fulfilling years of our ministry, watching God build a group of multi-ethnic people with various spiritual gifts and abilities into an effective ministry team. 

Again, many memories were made, some exciting and some challenging. Each team meeting encouraged us with what God was doing, especially among Chinese contract workers coming to faith and being baptized by the hundreds. Team meetings also challenged us to pray more fervently for our local Arab cousins as the work among them was slow and sometimes discouraging. The goals we set up as a team were being realized far more quickly in some areas than we had anticipated, and it was all to the praise and glory of God. 

Our team members were involved in several ministry areas such as theological training for expatriates, working in business, direct evangelism among unreached expatriates, hospitality, and marriage seminars for mixed ethnic marriages, to name a few. While contact with the local population was problematic at first, God allowed some team members to build friendships that continue to this day, allowing those team members to openly speak of Jesus. 

When we originally agreed to lead a new team in the Arabian Peninsula, we set a goal to serve six years, during which time we would work with team members to take over leadership of the growing team. Because of the anticipated tenure of our service, we did not study Arabic. We settled in the United Arab Emirates, where it was possible to get a working visa and the second language, albeit unofficial, is English. Our primary ministry was teaching Theological Education by Extension (TEE) to other expats, but we were also part of a growing international church’s leadership team. 

One highlight of this period was the Dubai Evangelical Church Center (DECC) building project (a co-operative project of the United Christian Church of Dubai and the Arab Evangelical Church). This included growing the multi-ethnic team, the salvation of many Chinese and other expat workers, the spiritual growth of many laypersons who studied via TEE, and even the graduation of one student after ten years of faithful part-time study. 

Some of the challenges in the Arabian Peninsula were very different from those in Indonesia, security being one of them. It was a learning experience for all involved in setting policies and following procedures meant to protect our team’s safety and ministry. On one occasion, a Filipino church worker gave some Christian materials to an Egyptian expat who reported him to the authorities; the next day, he was picked up by the secret police for violating the country’s anti-proselytism law. We worked closely with this brother to get him released on bail, but during the ordeal, he spent forty-one days in jail and was ultimately deported to the Philippines. 

Throughout our ministry, the times of encouragement vastly outnumbered the times of discouragement, but there were times of disappointment. There were times when a national leader turned his back on all our help and advice; we saw his role come to a sudden and disgraceful end. There were those times when team members misunderstood my communication and intent and accused me falsely. And there was an occasion when our Canadian leadership conscripted one of our field personnel without ever communicating with us in advance so the leadership transfer plans could be made appropriately. 

For me, the greatest joy of being an international worker is the privilege of being a change agent. I have always enjoyed change and seeing lives changed. Setting goals and accomplishing them, as well as seeing dreams and visions become a reality all brought unspeakable joy and fulfillment. 

This is an excerpt from the book, On Mission Volume 2. Download your free copy today.

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