Worth the wait: God’s promise to Ted Fletcher birthed a mission agency
Now 40, Pioneers International traces its beginnings to God's call on Ted Fletcher's life, giving him an impossible dream, then providing the resources necessary to bring it into reality.
Pioneers inAsia // December 27, 2019, 6:00 am
No place too foreign: Ted Fletcher did not shy away from bringing the Gospel to the Bedouins in the Middle East. All photos courtesy of Pioneers inAsia.
On the morning of May 8, 1968, next to a verse in the Bible he was reading, Ted Fletcher wrote: “God’s promise to me.” It was Psalm 2:8 (NIV): “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”
He understood it as “a promise originally to the Messianic King, Jesus, that the domain of His Kingdom would someday extend around the world and include all the nations (or literally the peoples)”.
Fletcher also took this verse as a promise to himself, and through it, God had come calling in his life, as he felt that God was speaking directly to him.
He clung to the promise for eight more long years while he continued to work in the corporate world. The Lord had blessed his efforts at The Wall Street Journal; Fletcher had been promoted from district to regional sales manager, and then at the age of 39, he became national sales manager.
All Fletcher’s past attempts to serve God in full-time ministry had not come to pass. He had been rejected as a missionary candidate by a couple of traditional missionary agencies because he had not completed any formal theological studies.
By then, his son, John, had a clear call on his life to missions. Fletcher again wondered if the promise would be fulfilled through John and his other children, rather than through his wife, Peggy, and himself.
That was until, once again, the Lord spoke to him from Psalm 2:8, which he marked again in his Bible.
Step of faith
In December 1973, Fletcher resigned from the Journal, which he loved – the company had been very good to him.
In a memo to his sales staff, he wrote: “I have attempted to conduct my responsibilities in the light of my personal faith in Jesus Christ. For me, the teachings and principles of the Bible have proven relevant and meaningful in my company life, as well as my personal life.
“I trust that you have seen these Christian principles attend the discharge of my professional duties.”
The years at the Journal had been a mission field of sorts to Fletcher, but now he felt God calling him out of his “Jerusalem”. This was in reference to Acts 1:8, where believers are to become witnesses for Christ not only in their local and regional areas but globally as well.
As Fletcher left the Journal for the last time, it was with a deep sense of gratitude for all the Lord had done.
Yet, for reasons known only to God, Fletcher went through a wilderness experience, a wandering that went on for four years.
Watching and waiting
While he waited for God to fulfil His plan, he worked at a few other jobs: As vice president of a car dealership that he owned with his brothers; as assistant to president of Washington Bible College; as marketing director at Gospel Light Publishing Company in southern California.
Fletcher would need an even deeper faith for the challenges that were around the corner.
He knew that God placed him in those positions as part of His plan for his life, but it was frustrating to wait while his heart burned for missions and the call to world evangelisation.
During those years, he often thought of Joseph, Moses, Esther, Paul and others in the Bible to whom God gave a distinct call, but required them to wait years before fulfilling it.
God knew what was ahead of them, and He knew what was ahead for Fletcher.
Fletcher saw it as God knowing that he would need an even deeper faith in Him for the challenges that were around the corner.
Four days into 1979, Fletcher went on a six-week mission trip to Nigeria. He came home with a burden for the lost and a sense of urgency that all people everywhere might hear one simple message – the good news of Jesus Christ. He felt God leading him to start a mission agency.
This was Peggy’s vision, too; she was as excited as he was about what the Lord was saying to them.
The first office for the new mission was in the basement of their home, and they came up with an initial name for it: World Evangelical Outreach.
“Is there something more that God has planned for you in the area of mission work?”
“World” described the extent of their vision. “Evangelical” emphasised their solid commitment to the Gospel and biblical truth. “Outreach” revealed their heart to penetrate areas beyond the existing borders of Christian witness.
The name was later changed to Pioneers, reflecting their vision in Romans 15:20 (NIV), “to preach the gospel where Christ is not known”.
Nineteen prospective missionaries attended their first orientation programme in 1982 and the first missionaries were sent to Asia, Africa and the South Pacific.
In the following years, missionaries were sent to Indonesia, Mongolia, Hungary and the Middle East. The Lord was truly giving Fletcher the world.
Fletcher would later write in his autobiography, When God Comes Calling: “When God comes calling in your life, will you answer His call and make yourself available, despite how you might feel about your inabilities and your past mistakes and sins?
“Is there something more that God has planned for you in the area of mission work and touching the nations and people of the world?”
Forty years later, Pioneers now has over 3,300 workers serving in over a hundred countries.
“My desire is that I go to heaven at the height of the battle. I want to die climbing.”
One of its 18 mobilisation gateways through which missionaries are prepared and sent is Pioneers inAsia. It was set up 21 years ago in Singapore and continues to prepare and send missionaries from all over Asia.
The movement continues to glorify God among unreached peoples by initiating church-planting movements in partnership with local churches.
Fletcher once wrote: “My desire is that I go to heaven at the height of the battle. I want to die climbing.”
He lived a pioneering life which inspired others to follow. Fletcher was called home to heaven in 2003 but his legacy continues through the ministries of Pioneers missionaries all over the globe who serve amongst the unreached.
Extracted and adapted with permission from the book When God Comes Calling by Ted Fletcher (Bottomline Media, 2010). The book is available on Amazon.com. Copies are also available from Pioneers inAsia.