HLG welcomes missionaries in residence
By Brandy Campbell
October 12, 2004
Hannibal–If you want to learn about medicine, you talk to a doctor. If you wish to know more about farming, you would consult a farmer. Hannibal-LaGrange College believes that if their students want to learn more about missions, the best person to teach them is a missionary.
This year, HLG will host it’s first full-time missionaries in residence. Dudley and Janet Graves, International Mission Board Missionaries, have lived and worked in Italy for the past 18 years. They are currently doing a year-long stateside assignment in Hannibal, where they are living in HLG’s Hagerman house. Dudley will be teaching Intro to Missions, but both he and Janet say their primary goal as missionaries in residence is to “show people that missionaries are normal people.”
“Our life really isn’t that different,” maintains Janet. “I just live a life. I’m a Mom; I do whatever comes up.”
The Graves first learned of Hannibal-LaGrange when students from HLG did a mission trip that Dudley and Janet were a part of. Then, in 2003, one of their daughters, Monika, decided to visit the campus as a prospective student. While there, they were approached by Dr. Tom Hufty, vice president for collegiate affairs, and asked if they would be interested in being missionaries in residence when they were on furlough (stateside assignment).
“When Tom (Hufty) asked us about coming here for our assignment, it just seemed right,” said Dudley. “The college is small and missions-minded, and that was important because we want to be a part of the students’ lives and share missions with them personally.”
“Since we’ll be living so close to campus, we hope that students will feel free to visit us any time,” added Janet. “We want to build those relationships and teach people about missions.”
Building relationships is something that the Graves are used to. Since 1996 they have been working on a church start in Viterbo, Italy, a town of about 65,000 people, located an hour north of Rome. In Viterbo there are no other Baptist churches, and very few evangelicals.
“Because we’ve had to start from nothing and had very few people to work with initially, personal relationships have been the key,” said Dudley. Many of those relationships have come from Dudley and Janet’s work at the local public schools, where they have each taught conversational English, and where Dudley has coached youth basketball teams. Janet has spent time fostering relationships with women in the community as well.
“I do a lot of visiting,” she said. “Instead of grocery shopping in one store, I go to twenty!” Janet also leads a “Baking Bible Study” in which she invites women into her home and teaches them how to make American desserts and then leads them in Bible study.
Janet also leads Sunday School worker workshops during which she teaches church workers how to work with children.
“My seminary degree is in religious education, so a lot of what I do is showing teachers how children learn,” said Janet. “In Italy, people don’t think children are capable of learning, so I teach them things that they can incorporate in their classes after I leave. It’s very important that they aren’t dependent on me, because if that’s the case, when you leave, everything stops.”
Work in Italy has had it’s share of difficulties for the Graves. Janet and Dudley admit that it can sometimes become frustrating when there is a lack of personal response.
“We sow and water seeds,” said Janet. “And while we’re here, we’ll make sure that our work in Italy will be prayed for. There’s a lot going on, and it’s hard not being there. But we pray, and know that God’s work is continuing.”
The Graves will be at Hannibal-LaGrange for the 2004-2005 school year. In addition to their responsibilities at the college, they will also be speaking on their experiences at local churches, participating in global missions celebrations, and are available to talk about their missions work with any who are interested. If you are interested in having the Graves come to your church, contact Tom Hufty at 573-221-3675, ext. 300.