International (MNN) — If you're a follower of Christ, how many times have you laid a plan and tried to follow it, only to look back and see an entirely different picture emerge?
In this case, that's what happened to both Paul Jenks and Tasos Ioannidis with AMG International.
The stories of these two men are connected, but we'll start with Paul Jenks who has served for 17 years as the President and Chief Executive Officer. He left a growing outreach in Thailand and came to the ministry's Tennessee headquarters at the request of then president Dr. Spiros Zodhiates.
While in the United States, AMG flourished and there were new friendships and grandkids. However, Jenks says, there was always the hope they would return to Asia someday. That niggling thought got stronger and stronger. Then came a fateful trip last year to Indonesia. "While we were there, the Lord just spoke to us that the opportunities in Indonesia at this time are significant. We have about 500 national pastors, evangelists, and workers that are doing church planting, and we have a seminary there."
The shape of how they would serve wasn't clear yet, but then illness and a serious car accident sidelined the team serving in Indonesia. Jenks says the hope took shape. "I think we're surprised that Indonesia is the destination that we're headed toward. We both loved our time in Thailand and worked hard to learn the language. But God has different seasons of our life. I think the desire to go back to Asia never was extinguished."
With a gap in ministry leadership in Indonesia, Jenks and his wife asked the AMG Board last month to allow him to return to missionary service. When asked if there were concerns about increasing push-back from Muslim extremists throughout Indonesia, he admitted, "There are localized reactions, especially when the Gospel is being effective and fruitful." However, he added that while they don't take security lightly, "Some of the more extreme places where the reaction has taken place are some distance from where we'll be located, but it is a reality, certainly a need for prayer. Our brothers and sisters in Christ face that every day."
The next big issue: who would take Paul Jenks' place at the helm of AMG? That's where Tasos Ioannidis' story comes in.
Ioannidis didn't start out thinking he would be in full-time missions. He had his eyes on the sky. in 1987, he earned a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from Boston University, which was quickly followed by a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In his case, even while completing his thesis, Ioannidis kept coming back to help AMG, even joining the staff in 1989 as Director of Information Technology. It was a familiar call with a long family back-story.
His father, Symeon, was an AMG national worker in Thessaloniki, Greece, where he ministered at AMG's bookstore. When Anastasios (Tasos) was 14, his parents were invited by Dr. Zodhiates, former AMG President, to move to Chattanooga to lead AMG's outreach to Greek-speaking people in the United States, where they continue to actively serve today. His mother, Anna, began working as the childcare coordinator in AMG's International Department.
After serving as AMG's IT Director, Tasos served as Executive Assistant to Dr. Zodhiates, and in recent years as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer alongside AMG President and Chief Executive Officer, Paul Jenks. During that time, as part of AMG's leadership and working closely with the Board of Trustees, he helped to shape AMG's strategies and direction.
Fast forward to today. The board is announcing the appointment of the new President and Chief Executive Officer, Tasos Ioannidis. He's excited to be moving forward, but muses, "I thought I would come here for a short while to help with some specific needs listed in the information technology area for AMG, but then God used that time to make it clear to me that He would have me be here for the long term."
Under his leadership, AMG's vision will continue on the same outreach path, but with more creative tools and outlets. Ioannidis says, "Certainly there are a lot of challenges around the world, and adapting to the times is a challenge. There are also lots of opportunities. The goal of AMG has always been to share the Gospel of Christ, to disciple people, and to show the compassion of Christ. The needs today are as great as ever."
Interwoven histories and connected life stories are no accident, says Ioannidis. In fact, those connections have set the pace for the ministry's future. "We are particularly seeing a lot of growth in Latin American, Africa, and Asia, so there are a lot of opportunities. But there are also a lot of challenges because there's a lot more opposition in some places to the expansion of the ministry; there are also challenges in the changing Christian landscape in the United States."
AMG is excited about what the Lord will do in the future as it remains faithful to its mission of evangelism and discipleship, working with nationals and alongside the local church, while tangibly expressing the love of Christ. Learn more about AMG International.