United States (MNN) — We don’t often get the chance to tell the stories of mission workers behind the mission news we share. But it’s in these stories where we are reminded God has a plan and a way for all of us.
Joanna Mangione of SOAR International was thirteen years old when God made it clear what she was to do with her life.
She says, “It was at that time when I first felt the passion for ministry — specifically orphan ministry.”
Magnione was ready to hit the mission field right after high school, but was advised to go to college first. She got her degree at Moody Bible Institute in ESL teaching. During those four years at Moody, she went on several mission trips, the first being to Russia with SOAR.
In the beginning, she had no intention of working at SOAR, but God had other plans. After much prayer and teasing from her brother Greg who also works at SOAR, she realized the open job fit what God had equipped her with.
“Administration, teaching, ministry with orphans — I mean just one thing after another just kept clicking into place,” she says.
She began raising support. During that time, God made a way for her with a free apartment and car while she completed support-raising.
The Family of Christ
Mangione has been with SOAR for three years now, and God has taught her a lot. Actually, one of the lessons she has learned began when she visited Russia for the first time several years ago.
“I remember getting off the plane and being greeted by the Church there and being so overwhelmed by the love they gave.”
This was her first glimpse at what the international Church really looks like. SOAR is focused on supporting believers through the local Church any way they can.
Mangione says it’s a picture of Galatians 6:2: “It says ‘Carry each other’s burdens and in this way fulfill the law of Christ.’ We are family in Christ, and SOAR embodies that concept so well.”
In other words, they walk alongside the Church in Russia.
“We go in to support. We don’t want to go in to create a crutch, we don’t want to just do something to do something. We want to do something that is valuable and that is going to assist and is going to last, going to encourage, going to equip, and going to make eternal changes.”
She says her experience at SOAR has underlined the fact that we are family — the family of God.
“In America, we’re still independent, we have each other, yes, but we have our own families and sometimes we can forget there’s a bigger family we are part of. And you don’t forget that when you’re in Russia.”
One way we can cultivate that familial relationship is to support each other through ministries like SOAR.
Relationships and people
It seems when ministry is done correctly, it asks a lot of a person. And so it’s always interesting to find out what passion God has given them to keep them going.
Her first project after coming onto the SOAR team was a ten day summer camp where each team member was assigned to a group of orphaned children at the camp. Mangione was paired with three girls — the youngest being six-years-old and the other two being seven.
“I will never forget their faces,” she says, “I wanted to adopt them at that moment. Being part of something where you’re sharing the love with these kids who have never experienced love, don’t believe they’re worth anything, that’s what keeps me going.”
Through the years, she has been blessed to carry out the Gospel work in the lives she’s touched. She gets to see the hope glimmer in their eyes when she tells them about Jesus.
There are a variety of challenges unique to each missionary. But all of them face what Mangione says is her biggest challenge: Spiritual warfare on and off the field. “You have to constantly be in the Word, and constantly on your knees — and constantly in prayer.”
Sold on Family
If you haven’t figured it out, the theme of Mangione’s story is family. We call each other brothers and sisters in Christ, and she really gets that. It’s an encouragement and a challenge to all of us.
She believes in carrying each other’s burdens. So would you consider carrying one of hers?
Missionaries have to raise support on top of their already packed schedules. Right now, Mangione is at 75 percent. If you feel called to bless this sister in this way, you can do so here.
She asks that you would pray for SOAR — picking one day of the week to pray over the various projects: the transition home, stuff a stocking and baskets of hope projects, the summer camps, staff members, pastors, and churches.
“Even if it’s two minutes long, it doesn’t have to be much, but set aside that time to pray. I mean, prayer can move mountains. It’s wonderful and powerful and we can use all the prayer we can get as we go and do the Lord’s work.”
You can also consider giving to SOAR, interning during their summer camps, or getting your church to partner with churches in Abkhazia. Check it out here.
Mangione leaves us with this humble reminder that God can use any of us to do His Work: “I’ve loved what I’ve gotten to do so far. I love what I get to do on a daily basis. God can work through the least of these and He’s shown that in my life, and sometimes you don’t have to be overseas full time to make a difference.”