Among the plethora of Harding alumni who have become long-term missionaries is alumnus James Rucker. He spent six years in Haiti doing mission work where he used his experience in electronic media production to make Christian educational help videos. He then met and married Abigail Rucker.
After they got married, they lived out at HUT, where James worked. Soon after they got married, the Haiti Christian Development Project invited the couple to come to Haiti long-term. The couple had a few offers for places to go for mission work, but Abigail said James felt Haiti was the right choice for them.
“We prayed that God would close the door to Haiti if he did not want us to minister there,” Abigail said. “We spent two months in Haiti and decided to make a two-year commitment.”
Abigail is starting a new job as administrative director after teaching English, holding women’s Bible studies and doing blood pressure outreach. Abigail said James helps with elementary school grants, assists in facilitating a bakery that church members opened, and supports Haitians by teaching English and helping with communication. The couple has been in Haiti for a year-and-a-half.
Robert Meyer is also a Harding graduate and is on campus this semester teaching in the Bible department. Meyer spent the summer after his freshman year in Africa on a mission trip.
“While there, the group was challenged to think about if doing cross-cultural mission work in Africa was something we could do, and I had never even thought about it before,” Meyers said.
When he returned to Harding, Meyers said he wanted to find a way do something cross-cultural in Arkansas. He spent the next summer interning with an inner-city mission group in Little Rock, and for his last two years at Harding, drove to Little Rock every weekend to worship with the Silver City Church and the children there. Meyers said the kids were a rambunctious group and mostly came from single parent households.
Meyers started graduate school in Memphis and while he was in school, a group of friends he went to Harding with decided to form a mission team to Angola, Africa. They invited Meyers and his wife to be a part of the team.
“As we talked to them, we realized that Angola was urban, unlike most of Africa,” Meyers said. “We saw how the work we had been doing in Little Rock — it was urban ministry — was directly applicable to Angola.”
“A lot of people ask me, ‘How did you decide to become a missionary?’ and I like to say, ‘I didn’t,’” Meyers said. “There was never a moment where I said, ‘God is calling me to do mission work somewhere.’ But when we learned about the need in Angola and saw how God had been preparing us for that and it made sense, so we went.”
Meyers said his favorite part about being a missionary are the friendships.
“I love the fact that we have fellowship, we have community with people from all different cultural backgrounds,” Meyers said.
There are many Harding alumni that become long-term missionaries, but there are also some Harding faculty that have been missionaries. Dr. Laurie Diles grew up in a missionary family. When she was a child, her family moved to Brazil, and she said that is the model that she used when she decided to do long-term mission work. Diles and her husband, Allan — also Harding faculty — spent 11 years in Prague with a mission team.
Diles said his favorite part of mission work is how clearly the purpose is defined.
“The best part is you know why you’re there,” Diles said. “Every conversation is intentional; every decision is intentional. It’s very clear what the assignment is.”
Diles said she has several pieces of advice for anyone who is considering mission work. She recommends going with a friend or a group as well as taking some mission courses or doing Global Outreach to get a feel for longer-term mission work.
“The first thing I would say is don’t close any doors about going. If there is even the slightest interest in going, keep the door open,” Diles said.