Fellowship Baptist Church has a long and rich history of missions. From its founding FBC has sent out missionaries to countries all over the world, including unreached people groups. FBC is both committed and passionate about taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations. Here are some of the missionaries we currently support:
Duane and Janet Abuhl are serving with Training Beyond Borders, a missions organization they started out of Fellowship Baptist Church. They are missionaries in the country of Vanuatu, which is made up of 83 islands in the South Pacific. Where they serve is remote, their modes of transportation include a 4×4 Toyota truck, a 20 ft. fiberglass boat, and small twin engine 8-15 passenger planes to reach these islands. The climate is tropical with the average temperature being 90 degrees with 90% humidity. Since 2003, the Abuhls have been ministering in the northern islands of Vanuatu in the areas of evangelism, preaching, making disciples, and equipping nationals on various islands to carry on the ministry themselves.
In 2004, they were able to start a local church in the town of Luganville, which now has a membership of more than 35 and is led by their own national pastor. In recent months, a third local church has been started on the remote island of Mota Lava. There is a great need for the ni-Vanuatu people to understand the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for them and to have a personal walk with Him. In 2008, in partnership with the ni-Vanuatu people, Duane and Janet built a Bible-Training Center on the island of Ambae to foster spiritual growth among the indigenous people. Several teaching sessions have already been held. Another Training Center has just been completed for the northern Banks Islands also part of Vanuatu. Men and women who have no formal Bible training are learning the foundations in the Word of God.
If you would be interested in supporting this growing work to remote tribal people who need the Gospel, please use the address – Training Beyond Borders – P.O. Box 627, Winfield, IL 60190
Merrill and Helen met at Wheaton College. When Merrill graduated from Wheaton in 1951, he married Helen and went to Denver to attend what was then called The Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary of Denver (now Denver Seminary). After Merrill graduated from seminary in 1954 they were appointed by the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society (now called World Venture). After gathering financial support, they left for France for a year of French language study. They finally arrived in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in January 1958.
Before they left for France in 1956 Fellowship Baptist Church took on some of the Skinners’ support. The Skinners’ furloughs were spent in Riverside and they became members of Fellowship in 1966. Fellowship would be the Skinners’ home church from 1966 until their retirement in 1996.
The Skinners’ ministries in Ivory Coast can be categorized in four categories:
1. Evangelism and Church Planting: The Skinners learned the Cebaara dialect of Senari, the major language of the Senufo people group located primarily in the northern part of Ivory Coast. Quite soon the Skinners had enough of a handle on Cebaara and began to go from village to village to sharing the gospel. The Lord gathered new believers into key villages and 17 churches were started representing some 50 villages.
2. Literacy and Translation: The Cebaara dialect was unwritten (as were all of the Senufo languages). The Skinners worked with some other missionaries and Africans to put it into writing. They began to teach the people to read and write their language. But that was not enough. Merrill began, along with two other missionaries and five Africans, to translate the New Testament into Cebaara, using the original Greek plus the English, French and Jula translations that they possessed. Merrill spent 25 years translating until the New Testament was completed. Merrill had not studied Hebrew, so he turned the translation ministry over to others. Besides, Merrill had been elected the field chairman, so he didn’t have the time any more.
3. Administration: From his second term on Merrill was given one administrative position after another. He was elected to be the chairman of the School Board, the board responsible for building and operating the school for missionary children, a position he held for nine years. Then he was elected to be the field chairman, responsible to oversee all the work of the mission in the country. At one time there were more than 70 missionaries there.
4. Discipleship: When it came time for the Skinners’ last term on the field (Merrill was already 64 years old), Merrill asked to be relieved of the administrative positions because some of the church leaders had asked him to head up a program of Theological Education by Extension (TEE) in order to disciple the Christians in the churches. Merrill chose two African pastors to work with him. The three of them wrote 16 courses in Cebaara to teach the believers in the local churches how to live for the Lord. They then trained the pastors how to conduct these courses. The Lord caused these churches, which used these courses, to blossom!
Since retiring from the mission Duane Abuhl, another Fellowship missionary, asked Merrill to translate the TEE manuals into English for him to use in Vanuatu. This was not an easy task since the Skinners left Ivory Coast over 19 years ago. But the Lord has enabled Merrill (along with Helen) to remember enough of Cebaara to be able to do that translation. They have translated five of the courses and are now working on the sixth. Each course is 150 to 185 pages in length, covering six to eight weeks of lessons.
The Skinners have four children: Judy, wife of a pastor in Florida, Janet, who with Duane serves in Vanuatu, Dale, living in Oregon, and Donna, living with her husband and four children in Switzerland. They have eight grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.