It’s a few months late, but this year we celebrate Gary Frankson, our Print Shop Manager, for his 30 years of diligent service to Christian Aid Mission. Here is his story.
At the first missions’ conference Gary Frankson ever attended at his Christian Missionary Alliance Church in Niagara Falls, he found himself standing up during the altar call for anyone who felt called to missions. It wasn’t something he planned on doing, and he wasn’t sure how this calling would play out. At the time, he was selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door to provide for his wife and two daughters. He was a young Christian with no missions training.
Evaluating his skillset, a few stood out as potentially useful—he had taken a few flying lessons, and he had an amateur radio license.
“I thought God was going to send me to a place where the only way to get there was to fly, and the only way to communicate was by radio,” Gary said.
After the conference, he read the requirements for missionary work on the back of a Christian Missionary Alliance magazine and immediately felt unfit for the job. Missionaries needed seminary, language proficiency, cultural training. He was working on commission, barely able to support his family.
“I was kind of despairing, because I thought, how was this possible?” Gary said. “We were just scraping by. The thought of going to school for that long, it just didn’t make sense to me.”
Putting his missionary dreams to rest, Gary’s next job was working in printing and mailing for a magazine called Christian Inquirer. His pastor set up the interview, and Gary got the job with no previous experience.
Printing was never something that had even entered Gary’s mind as a career, but he quickly learned the ins and outs of the printing press, labeling machine and mailings. Every time anyone went out to lunch, it was Gary’s job to operate their machine. It was an intense training for what would become his own mission work—running the print shop for Christian Aid Mission.
Three years into his work for Christian Inquirer, Gary suffered a collapsed lung. While he was in the hospital, Phillip Zodhiates, one of his best friends at work, came to visit and say that he and his wife were moving to Charlottesville, Virginia to work for a ministry called Christian Aid Mission.
Gary was stunned and thought he would never see his friend again, but five or six months later, Phillip called and asked Gary if he would like to move to Virginia and work for Christian Aid Mission too.
Gary didn’t know what to expect, but he and his wife came to visit—leaving Niagara Falls in the middle of a New York blizzard and arriving in a warm, Virginia spring. They met Bob Finley, the founder of Christian Aid Mission, and received their first introduction to indigenous missions, a new model in which Western Christians can participate in missionary work by aiding the native Christians already living near and among unreached people groups.
The more Gary learned, the more sense indigenous missions made in terms of both cost and effectiveness.
“It just made sense that their own people would be preaching in their language and their culture,” Gary said. “Especially as you hear from the leaders when they come and share. American missionaries typically live in houses behind big walls, and you think, if they’re trying to reach people, why are they blocking them out?”
After an interview with Dr. Finley, Gary remembers him saying something like, “I think you’re the answer man.”
At Christian Aid Mission’s guest house that night, he offered Gary a position in the print shop, which he has held now for thirty years.
It may not involve flying planes into dangerous areas, radio communication, or any of what
many people associate with missionary work, but the mailings Gary is responsible for are sent to as many as 8,000 people, who then learn about the work of native missionaries and have the opportunity to support them both financially and through prayer. These publications equip Christians to provide resources for the field, enabling native missionaries to care for the sick and needy in both their physical needs and spiritual needs. Through their work, men, women and children come to know Jesus as savior and have new life and hope in Him.
The call Gary felt at the missions’ conference was not misplaced.
“There are so many ways God uses us that we don’t know,” he said.
He is, indeed, a missionary—and through his own church, Gary has taken a few short term trips overseas, even visiting ministries supported by Christian Aid Mission. At one seminary in Croatia, Gary met a man leading worship whose picture he had printed on a brochure.
“There are no coincidences,” Gary said of his work for the kingdom, each step devised by an endlessly creative God.
Over the years, Gary has met visiting missionaries affected by Christian Aid Mission’s work—people from Ukraine, Burma, Palestine and all over the world making the Lord’s name known. These missionaries have faced persecution and violence; some were introduced to Jesus through dreams; one leader of a motorcycle gang dealt heroine before meeting the Lord, and Gary described him as deeply humble. Each story is just one example of grace flourishing in unlikely places.
“I never cease to be amazed,” Gary said. “It’s easy to forget that it’s not the norm, even for Christians, to hear these testimonies. I ask God to let me never stop being amazed.”