Last updated: July 7, 2023

Brian and Elizabeth Ballinger each had reasons to consider overseas ministry. Elizabeth grew up a missionary kid in Asia. Brian had been on TMS Global’s summer GreenLight Programs to the Middle East and Paraguay, and his heart opened to what God was doing around the world.

So when Brian and Elizabeth met at Asbury Seminary and got married, they felt led to pursue cross-cultural ministry together.

Brian and Elizabeth eventually attended a Discover Weekend with TMS Global. The organization strongly stood out as having good member care, training and formation. TMS Global is “in it for the long haul” when it comes to helping their cross-cultural workers succeed long term, Brian says.

Brian, Elizabeth, and their infant daughter Noa plan to be cross-cultural ministers in Spain. Last summer, Brian and Elizabeth prepared for this ministry field by undergoing TMS Global’s three-week training. They will move to Spain in September 2023 to follow their passion for ministry in two different areas.

The first is among the immigrant and refugee population of the Andalusia region in southern Spain. The Ballingers will minister to the physical and spiritual needs of migrants from Morocco and refugees from all over including the Middle East, Ukraine, and North Africa.

The second area of ministry is house churches. Because Spaniards are burnt out with institutional church, the Ballingers plan to provide a non-institutional expression of church that is relational. “We hope to break down walls and presuppositions about what church is,” Brian says.

Their plans to minister to migrants, refugees, and native Spaniards is about “showing up, seeing where the Holy Spirit is already moving and asking, “Lord, what are you doing in this community, and how can we come alongside what You are doing already?”” Brian says.

TMS Global teaches its workers to come in as humble learners. Brian and Elizabeth’s first assignment in Spain is to learn as much as they can about the culture and context surrounding them. It’s about seeking to understand. In their everyday lives of learning the culture and building relationships, they each have unique gifts to bring.

One of Elizabeth’s gifts is hospitality. “Refugees and immigrants pique my interest because I know what it’s like to feel like an outsider,” she explains. “One of the ways I hope to minister in Spain is hospitality. The refugees and immigrants come from strong hospitality cultures.”

As for Brian, his musical gift for playing the cello will follow him to Spain. “When I think of ministry, I think of what’s in your hand,” Brian says. “And the cello is in my hand. I’ve dreamed about how music can open doors with people.”

Before they met, Brian and Elizabeth each felt led to Asbury Seminary.

Brian’s parents had graduated from the Seminary, but it was not until a friend said he needed to visit that Brian came in person and felt very called to attend.

When Elizabeth studied psychology at a Christian college, her Bible and ministry classes led her to want to pursue a theological degree. Her professor recommended Asbury Seminary, yet the ultimate reason Elizabeth chose it is because of its emphasis on spiritual formation.

In her classes at the Seminary, Elizabeth was introduced to the concept of the mission of God, “the idea that we join God on his mission.” Elizabeth, who received her M.A. in Spiritual Formation in 2019, says, “Our calling is to be disciples of Jesus, wherever that is. Specifics of how and where you are a disciple may change in seasons.”

Asbury Seminary “encouraged my love for Jesus,” says Brian, who received his M.Div. in 2021. “That is the main thing we need as a minister.”

Brian and Elizabeth both sing the praises of the Seminary’s DNA groups. In her words, “Learning how to do honest, deep, intentional community with other people” in a “sharing-your-soul group” has been a big part of Elizabeth’s formation. Brian says, “Confession and honesty with other people about struggles helped me experience God’s love in a really deep way.” His group members “know me in all my brokenness and receive me, which has given me so much more joy and peace,” he says.

The formation Brian and Elizabeth received at Asbury Seminary will no doubt be with them as they work to form authentic communities in southern Spain.

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