By Janene Wooten
Hello, my name is Janene Wooten. I am an IPHC missionary stationed in Hungary and working on staff for The Awakening’s International Base. I am 24 years old. That may seem young to some of you, and I suppose it is, but being a missionary on the field is a dream and a promise that I have carried since I was a child. I knew from around the age of 10 that this is what I wanted to do, and more than that, I knew it was what I was called to do. I am so thankful to finally be here serving and working as a part of our global church.
When I was first asked to write this article, I began to ask myself how the generations of the church have affected me. As I reflected on my life and time in ministry, it became abundantly clear to me that ministry is not about one generation, but about each generation connecting and working alongside the other. Every generation has something unique that they bring, and I believe that ministry and the church should stand as a perfect example of that.
You see, I grew up as a missionary kid and grandkid. We lived and served in East Africa for the majority of my life, and I count it as the absolute greatest blessing. I was able to work with wonderful people alongside my parents and grandparents. I learned the “tricks of the trade” and prepared for the life that I knew God had called me to live. I had the opportunity to travel all over this beautiful planet and encounter people from all walks of life in different countries and continents. One of the greatest blessings of all was witnessing what it looks like to serve in the Kingdom of God. This service is about people, regardless of their age, status, nationality, or gender, coming together for the common goal of seeing this world changed by the Gospel.
I am so proud to be a part of a church that prioritizes the value of people, particularly all generations of people. Missions and ministry have always looked like a multigenerational gathering to me. As a child, I would go on trips with Babu and Grandma (Phillip and Gailya List) and my mom and dad. I would watch them bring different experiences and techniques to the table as we prepared and served the people who God led us to. Then, as I grew up and other missionaries came to East Africa (the Sneeds, Tignors, and Dunnings), I would watch as they brought new perspectives and ideas to the field. It was not about power, seniority, or “out with the old and in the with new,” but instead, it was about understanding that we were all called and sent to serve the people of East Africa.
Now, as I walk in this new field, with new experiences and challenges every day, I am so thankful for the people who came before me. I cannot tell you how many emails and messages I have sent asking missionaries, who I have grown up admiring, for their wisdom and advice, or how much I value each time someone sat down with me to share their stories from the field. This type of encouragement has helped me prepare for what the Lord has called me to do. What I am doing now is in partnership with what those who came before me have done. I am thankful for the years of prayer, groundbreaking, soil tilling, and sowing that came long before I was here. I do not want to belittle myself, please do not misunderstand me, but I want to give honor where honor is due. To me, the generations that came before me, the missionaries and ministers who have been serving the kingdom for so long, they are the people I look up to most in this world.
With that being said, I am so thankful to be a part of my generation. I am young, and I do not have the experiences that others have, but I am passionate about this generation knowing God and being on fire for Him. I am not just saying these things because they sound like good, Christian words; I mean them. I believe that God has gifted this generation with passion. We love to fight for things. Unfortunately, this passion can get pulled in different directions and attach itself to causes all over the place, but in its truest sense, I believe that passion itself is from God. The enemy has put so much effort into distracting us. Our world is filled with technology, media, and icons to take our attention and heart away from the Lord. If the enemy can keep us with our eyes out of focus toward the call of God, then he cripples us. However, I whole-heartedly believe if this generation were to truly experience the Holy Spirit and know the power and love of God, there would be a move like we have not seen in decades. The key is that we must fight harder than the enemy to get the world’s eyes back into focus and fixed on who God is calling us to be.
I love being around ministers and missionaries of my generation. You can feel excitement and urgency in their presence. I am hopeful for the future of the church because I see people from my generation who love God furiously and love people from a heart that is connected to Him. In November, I attended a gathering of young European leaders. As I sat there and listened to them share their visions for their cities and countries, and as they cried and beamed with passion and excitement, my heart caught that fire again and again as each one spoke. I left that weekend having confidence in the Gospel and the move of God that is coming to Europe. One thing that every one of us has in common is that at one time or another, someone from an older generation has taken time to teach us and disciple us into our calling.
This is not a brand-new concept, (I know I am not inventing the wheel); the Bible is full of examples of this. In the Old Testament, we have examples such as Moses, Joshua, Elijah, and Elisha. From the New Testament, we have Elizabeth, Mary, Paul, and Timothy. In each of these stories, the older knew things that the younger did not. The younger had questions and needed guidance to walk out their calling, and together the Kingdom advanced. It was not about replacing or excluding, but embracing the fact that each generation brings something that is immensely important and needed. The older shared, encouraged, and taught the younger; while the younger worked alongside and humbly learned before setting out on their own. This is the most beautiful picture of the Kingdom to me.
In closing, I want to say thank you to every person that has taken time to pour into and disciple the coming generations. I pray that we will grab hold of this shared wisdom and never take for granted the immense blessing that it is. I also want to urge my generation to ask questions and take the time to listen. We must allow ourselves to be teachable, and to let the things we learn give us boldness and confidence to walk out the call of God on our lives. I think that the coming years of this church, and the church as a whole, will see such growth and breakthrough if we continue to value all generations.