Every year the Wilkes Honors College graduates around 60 students who set off into the world unknown. Some attend graduate school or medical school, others seek employment, and one bought a zoo. Regardless of their path, the Honors College is proud of their student body for their accomplishments both within and beyond FAU.
Two 2015 graduates, Nolan and Lanie McKenna, who concentrated in philosophy and biology respectively, chose a path less travelled by our alumni. In January of 2016 following their May departure from the Honors College, Nolan and Lanie were wed in a beautiful ceremony surrounded by family and friends. Just 6 months after that, the two set off to India where they began their work with The Timothy Initiative. From their website, TTI “is an international church planting organization which was established with the purpose to train and equip ‘Timothys’ (Pastors/Church Planters)”. With this organization, Nolan and Lanie have started their journey as missionaries in India to protect different groups of people in need like orphans, widows, and victims of sex trafficking.
To get started with this organization, TTI trained them and other disciples to be national leaders so that they could reach out to and help communities in need. Nolan said to me that he, Lanie, and TTI believe that “churches are supposed to be on the front lines of caring for the most vulnerable and exploited people in the community” which is why they felt so compelled to join TTI on their mission. Though the organization started just in 2008 only serving India, the group now has over 34,000 churches in more than 43 different countries.
As a church looks to set up in a new area, they note the cultural context in which the disciples and leaders will be providing aid. Nolan stated that “what may work for a church in America probably won’t work for a church in North India”. From learning this information, the disciples under TTI are able to find commonalities in their methods and share them with other church leaders to see if their practices could benefit others around the world – if they don’t, they adjust them to fit the needs of the community. The churches are then responsible for consistently reaching out on a regular basis to those in need after TTI has created their system of training and accountability.
Nolan then mentioned to me his concern with the concept of “mission trips” and that they may be doing more harm than good. On these trips, the help that communities receive can sometimes create “a dependency on foreign help, which is a detriment to the community”. With TTI, they ensure that the work is done through a church that is willing to commit the time and effort to get the community to a point where they are able to help others as they have been helped.
From there, TTI focuses on outreach to existing organizations in the areas where they are stationed and connects them with church leaders to create a more powerful presence in the communities for those in need. The stories of each church leader is shared to churches world-wide so that the TTI community can learn and grow together and create a more powerful impact on the world.
Nolan and Lanie are currently working in India but the organization does a large deal of work in Kenya and Nepal as well. Next year you can find them expanding their work to Myanmar, Bangladesh, and possibly West Africa.
You can follow the McKenna’s on their mission abroad at https://inkoceans.wordpress.com/