Pastor Gil looked around at those gathered for morning prayer. He’d only been the pastor in Santa Margarita, CA, for three weeks, and he was still learning the names of the 20 people who attended the small church. Gil’s eyes settled on an older man whose name he knew.
“Mr. Bird, would you lead us in prayer?”
Without hesitating, Mr. Bird said, “No.”
God’s Early Provision in Ministry
Gil and Trish Doebler made many memories in those first years of ministry. Learning that Mr. Bird didn’t like to pray in public was just the beginning. Yet, as Gil and Trish navigated the early years of rural ministry, the Lord never failed to provide.
Even the size of the Doebler’s first church was providential. While some Bible school graduates may be disappointed to go to a church with just 20 people, Gil and Trish saw it as an answer to prayer.
“It didn’t seem overwhelming,” said Trish. “There was a little church that maybe needed us. It just seemed like with the Lord’s help this was something we could do.”
God proved repeatedly that He would provide the help they needed.
During their six years in Santa Margarita, God grew Gil and Trish as missionaries, provided a brand-new parsonage, brought new families to the congregation, and used kid’s programs to bring children and parents to saving faith.
“It was sweet to know the people that were saved, to see lives changed and the people that are still in the church today,” said Trish.
Sometimes in rural ministry, you witness quick results, but most often, it takes time.
In Summit Park, WA, Gil and Trish met a young couple in the church. Monte and Debbie sat in back row and always left quickly when the service was over. Over the years, Gil mentored Monte, helping him get involved in the church and grow spiritual. Monte continued to take on responsibilities until he eventually became Gil’s assistant. But even that was just the beginning.
After Gil and Trish left Summit Park, Monte became the pastor of that church, where he has pastored for 16 years!
Seeing lives transform brings incredible joy, but sometimes, patiently waiting to see the long-term results of ministry brings pain.
After a short stay in one field, Gil and Trish left feeling incredibly discouraged. Yet, years later, God showed Himself sufficient once again.
“We were encouraged by fellow missionaries who followed us and shared with us [about] the hard work Gil had done there,” said Trish. “To us it looked like failure, but it was necessary to prepare the way for someone else to come and stay for years. The Lord is keeping you in those times when you are really discouraged. Looking back, we really see how it’s been Him going before us and behind us, giving us that sufficient grace to continue to serve.”
The Lord’s Sustaining Provision in Ministry
Throughout 46 years of ministry with Village Missions, Gil and Trish served as Village Missionaries, District Representatives, a board member and Associate Village Missionaries. And they have no doubt how they have been able to serve so many years.
“The Lord sustained us,” said Gil. “We give Him the credit for his providence and grace.”
Over the years, God showed Gil and Trish that grace through the encouragement of local pastors, church and community members, District Representatives and, many times, fellow Village Missionaries.
While serving in Colorado, a nearby Village Missions church blessed the Doeblers by sending clothes and toys for each of their children. Another Village Missions church sponsored the Doebler’s church for their VBS project, and other Village Missionaries visited when they were sick in the hospital.
And deep down, through the good and tough times, one thing spurred the Doeblers forward in ministry. The need for rural people to hear the gospel.
“My wife has been a real encouragement to me,” said Gil. “Having a heart for ministry. We were both in it together. She wasn’t waiting for a chance to move onto something else. That’s been a huge blessing to me.”
That mutual love for the rural church and people convinced the Doeblers to continue as Associate Village Missionaries today.
“When you see lives changed, and you know there’s a need – for us, it just seemed like the next step,” said Trish. “We both love the Lord and we love the church, and we want to see God’s church thrive in rural North America.”
The same God who transformed lives through the ministry of Gil and Trish continues to work in the ministries of over 220 Village Missionaries across the United States and Canada! In each of these churches, people hear the gospel. Someone might be hearing for the first time right now!
We thank God for his provision over the past 70 years of ministry. We thank Him for our Village Missionaries, past and present, and especially for those of you who support this ministry through your faithful prayers and generous giving!