From left to right: Cheryl Doss (Associate Director), Wagner Kuhn (Associate Director) and Lester Merklin (Director)

Cheryl Doss was raised in a pastor's family and became a missionary kid when her family moved to Helderberg College in South Africa. With her husband, Gorden, she served for 16 years as a missionary in Malawi and pastored for five years in the Florida and Kansas Conferences. She holds a Ph.D. in Christian Education and Intercultural Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has a special interest in researching and teaching on missionary family transition and third-culture kids. Cheryl and Corden, a teacher of mission at the Seminary, have two adult children and one adorable grandson.

Wagner Kuhn grew up as a Seventh-day Adventist. He began serving the church in 1986, immediately after his college graduation. He holds a M.A. in Mission from Andrews University and a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies (Mission) from Fuller Theological Seminary. Wagner is married to Gisele, a registered nurse, and they have two missionary daughters, Gielle and Gillian. He has served the church as a missionary in several capacities: pastor, relief and development worker, administrator, and teacher. He has worked in Brazil, Azerbaijan, and the United States.

Lester Merklin was raised in a strong Adventist home and, except for the third and fourth grades, attended Adventist schools until he obtained his M.Div. degree. His D.Min. in Missiology came from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Lester pastored churches in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Southern New England, including academy churches, for 20 years and also taught secondary Bible during some of that time. From 1990- 1996, he and his wife Lynn served at Pakistan Adventist Seminary; from 200 /- 2005, they served at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies in the Philippines.

When did the Institute of World Mission start, and what is its work and purpose?

The Institute of World Mission (IWM) was established by the General Conference at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary to train missionaries for crosscultural service. The first training event was held at Andrews University in the summer of 1966. Organized as an institute with its own faculty in 1981, IWM is still headquartered at the Seminary but holds several training events each year at different locations around the world for General Conference missionaries and others engaged in cross-cultural ministry. In addition to training missionaries, IWM is responsible for assisting in the continuing education and care of missionaries, helping to develop and promote the mission-consciousness in the world church, and researching and writing as advocates of church mission.

What kind of activities and projects is IWM engaged in?

Besides the "institutes" the seminars held to prepare missionaries for crosscultural ministry IWM is currently preparing plans and materials for continuing-education opportunities for missionaries (retreats, online courses and forums, journals) and special seminars for church leaders in multicultural teambuilding. IWM is involved in research projects for the church and is cooperating with the Secretariat in an initiative to prepare young missionaries for opportunities in the world's least evangelized areas.

How many missionaries work for the Adventist church around the world?

Since many Adventists are involved in cross-cultural ministries, it isn't easy to know which ones to count when giving missionary figures! However, if we use our church's statistics for missionaries sent by the church, we have approximately 800 families sent as General Conference interdivision workers, 700 volunteers (student missionaries, Adventist Volunteer Service), and 1,200 Global Pioneers (Global Mission-sponsored nationals who evangelize new areas in their homelands). Obviously, we need many more missionaries in each of these categories! These missionaries, by the way, come from many different countries of the world the North American Division is no longer the missionary-sending division!

Why does the church still send missionaries?

Because the work is not finished yet, and billions still need to hear the Gospel. Jesus' commission is imperative, even today; He said: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19, 20).

What does it mean to be a missionary?

It means to carry a mission! It means going somewhere as a representative of ]esus, as His ambassador. It means leaving your home country, learning a new language and a new culture, and dedicating your life to living and working among those who have never heard the gospel.

Who can be a missionary? 

Anyone who is willing to live for Christ and serve Him cross-culturally wherever there is a need. Young and old people are needed, people who will go and live in the unreached parts of the world. Church workers can go as missionaries, and professional people who want to use their skills in mission service can be missionaries.

What different types of missionaries do we have today?

Interdivisional workers sent by the General Conference have been filling the following positions: educational (30 percent), church administration (23 percent), medical (21 percent), ADRA (10 percent), school administration (7 percent), ministry (6 percent), and clinic/ hospital administration (3 percent).

What skills or qualities must a missionary possess?

To be respectful and adaptable, to be patient and flexible, to be loving and caring these are the most important qualities. Other skills the ability to learn a new language; the skill of a medical and health profession; the ability to communicate the gospel in a way that people will understand; the ability of administration, teaching, and preaching these are also valuable skills.

What are the biggest challenges facing today's missionaries?

Missionaries have always faced the challenges of separating from home and family, of need ing to learn new languages and new jobs, and of adjusting to differences in climate, foods, living conditions, and ways of life. These challenges remain, but three additional ones come to mind.

The Adventist missionary workforce is increasingly global. Most missionaries work in multicultural settings where they must adjust not only to the local culture but also to their fellow missionaries who are of a different culture, language, and ethnicity. Thus, cultural adjustments have to be made in several directions, and support between missionaries becomes more difficult.

The security situation in large parts of the world is deteriorating. Because missionaries are often visibly foreign where they serve, they can become targets for crime, may be exposed to additional traumatic events, or find themselves living with war and political instability.

Despite the growth of the Adventist church in many areas of the world, the challenge to Adventist mission and missionaries remains immense. With two billion of the world's population without a witnessing Christian community in their midst and the world religions of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism virtually untouched by any Christian group, Adventist missionaries have the hardest task of mission still before them. Learning to witness effectively to non-Christians, living in difficult parts of the world without a Christian community, and working with unwelcoming governments in hostile environments requires unusual levels of tenacity, flexibility, and God's grace.

What is the relevance of cross-cultural training to the church today?

In many ways, the world is truly becoming a global village. Globalization means that today's Adventist churches almost everywhere are becoming multi-cultural.Immigration is a huge phenomenon that creates diverse people groups in every large city. Many disagreements and much of the disharmony in churches today can be traced to cultural misunderstandings and ethnic differences. And the church's outreach is seriously hampered when its members cannot communicate across cultures. Cross-cultural skills are necessary for the church to function well and be effective in its outreach. IWM training helps participants identify their cultural styles, practice attitudes needed for positive cross-cultural communication, and develop tools for cross-cultural dialogue and witnessing.

How does one become a missionary?

Most career missionaries today are professionals who have already received education and experience in the area of the need in the mission field. Some are called because an institution is looking for someone with their expertise and asksed if they would be interested. Others are located for mission service by taking the initiative to fill out an application for mission service with the Secretariat of the General Conference at their Web site ( Files/ S312a for Webpage.rtf). Volunteers who serve short-terms (usually a year or so) apply for opportunities they locate in the database of calls maintained by Adventist Volunteer Service (

Can the activities and work of a local church elder be considered equally important as that of a missionary?

As Adventists, we take seriously the biblical teaching of the church as a body. Every part of the body is important, no matter how small or specialized. Church elders are important to the functioning of the body as a whole. They are also important to the cross-cultural mission of the church. Without strong local churches to send and support missionaries, without church elders who foster a mission vision among their flocks, the church would be seriously hampered in fulfilling the gospel commission to "go to all the world." Whatever the size or location of the church, the evangelistic attitudes and mission fervor of the local church elders will largely contribute to the viability of mission within the local congregation and to its willingness to send its sons and daughters and give of its resources to share the Good News with those who are perishing.

Is the work of a church elder the same as that of a missionary?

1 would answer Yes and No. Yes, in the sense that all activities done in God's name and with all our abilities are important in His sight and can further His mission on earth. No, in the sense that a missionary is one who has received a specific call from God and the church to a specialized ministry crossing cultural boundaries to spread the gospel. Many times, this calling requires the missionary to learn a new language and make serious sacrifices. Yes, both activities are important; nevertheless, the requirements of the cross-cultural missionary are certainly different.

What resources does IWM provide its missionaries and others interested in cross-cultural witness?

IWM provides training for mission in several ways. Three-week training programs for career missionaries and others interested in cross-cultural service are held four times each year in diverse places such as Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Short-term mission training for student missionaries, volunteers, and those participating in mission trips is available as an online or video "Passport to Mission" self-study course. Adventist professionals and/or business persons interested in working in countries closed to conventional missionaries can find mission training and support through the IWM program "Global Partnerships." "Leadership Across Cultures" seminars are designed for leaders at all levels of the church to facilitate the outreach, unity, and effectiveness of multicultural teams.

IWM maintains a publishing and bookorder service with numerous volumes on topics of interest to missionaries, provides debriefing seminars for missionaries returning to their home cultures, and is developing the Adventist Mission Web site <> to provide online resources for all those interested in mission.

Does God and the church need missionary families today?

Yes, the command to go and make disciples of all nations is still imperative today. God's mission requires God's missionaries. Individuals and families often want to serve the church as missionaries, but at that particular moment, there is not an available opportunity. When God calls you, He will send you! Many times you will have the opportunity to work as a career missionary for the church, or as a contract worker, a student missionary, or a volunteer. Other times, God's call will come in the form of a job opportunity, and you will be required to go as a tentmaker, someone who works in a professional career while at the same time serving as God's missionary, furthering the good news of the gospel in that particular context. Our task is to listen to God's voice and join Him in His work, wherever He calls us.