Throughout December, pictures from SEND workers around the world fill our inboxes. We vote and deliberate, but mostly we enjoy seeing what our missionaries see as they engage the unreached and share the love of Christ in far-away places. It’s finally time to show you some of the amazing images from SEND’s annual photo contest. We’ll reveal 2017’s big winners next week, but first we want to honor these eight wonderful runners up — some sweet, some silly, some scenic. 

‘Teaching her own,’ by Gary Meade, Taiwan

Gary and his wife, Mabel, serve in Taiwan, where they are starting a church among the Hakka people. There are 4 million Hakka in Taiwan, but only about 0.6 percent of them are Christians. The Meades been on the field for 21 years.

“We were visiting this Hakka man with other church members. As we were chatting with each other, the Hakka woman in the photo noticed a practice writing book on the table with Scriptures in it. The old man told us that one of his grandchildren gave him the book. The woman was going over the lessons and asked him to read it out loud. A Hakka teaching another Hakka how to read Scriptures!”

 

‘The scenic route,’ by Brandon Fischer, Alaska

Brandon, his wife, Beth, and their children have lived for 3.5 years in Huslia, Alaska. They serve as church planters in the bush village, which has a population under 300. 

“It was just a morning run to the dump, and on the way home I took the scenic route. This was the 10:58 a.m. sunrise on November 27. The trees were freshly frosted during the night. This place also overlooks a pond that my oldest daughter and I have hunted ducks on.” 

 

‘Neighborly,’ by Michaela Eipperle, Ukraine

Michaela grew up in Ukraine, where her family has been living for 15 years. The family’s main ministry emphasis is missions mobilization. Her dad, Kyle, also teaches in Bible colleges. She took this photo right outside their Kyiv apartment.

“I had headed out to take some photos of the snow. Walking back to my apartment, I noticed some great composition for a final photo. I snapped this image and headed to the intercom, punched in the code and waited for one of my family members to buzz me in. Looking behind me, I noticed that the neighbor whom I had candidly taken a photo of was behind me. His smile said it all, and he offered to let me in with his key.” 

 

‘Up top’ by Julie Cox, East Asia 

Julie lives in East Asia where her husband teaches at an international school. Her parents have worked with SEND for 40 years. She took this picture of sloping roofs of hutong houses.

 

‘Oodles of poodles,’ by Carol Suzuki, Japan

Carol has served in Japan since 1995. She teaches English to Japanese and Korean moms, and she also mentors and disciples Japanese women. Her husband, Paul, is SEND Japan’s area director. They have three children, one in college and two in high school.  

“It was a beautiful fall day and our family was sitting in the courtyard of an Italian restaurant, waiting for our wood-fired pizzas to appear. In a land where bicycles are ubiquitous and squeezing into cramped spaces is a given, this adorable picture of five poodles waiting for their owner grabbed everyone’s attention.”

 

‘I’ve been waiting so long for this,’ by Leah Schwartz, Ukraine

Leah has served in Odessa, Ukraine, since 2009. She attends Hope for the People Church, where she directs an English club outreach. She serves on the board of directors for Choose Life, a ministry to pregnant women and those who have had abortions, and works in the ministry’s pregnancy care center. And she facilitates training for women and leads Bible studies.

“My church had its annual baptism on the banks of the Black Sea in Odessa on September 3. There were nine people baptized, from teenagers to this babushka (grandmother). We hold the baptism at the beach as beachgoers look on. It’s always amazing to me how public it is, especially after so many years where everything related to the church was done in secret. This babushka was standing with all the others, despite her difficulty walking because of swollen legs. I don’t really know her, but she walks slowly to church every Sunday. The waves were pretty rough that day, so she walked out with these other two men who were also baptized. It always brings tears to my eyes that no matter our age, we can turn to Christ. As she walked out of the water, she was beaming. Later, I congratulated her and asked her about her reaction. She said, ‘I’ve been waiting so long for this.'” 

 

‘Here to learn,’ by Joel Lowen, Japan

Joel and his wife, Elaine, have served as church planters in Japan for 32 years. This photo was taken at Watari Bible Christ Church in Northeast Japan.

“One way we engage local people in order to share Jesus is through the appeal of ourselves as native English speakers. We connect with young families in our community by helping their kids learn conversational English, which is seen as useful in their education and communication skills. We also tell these kids Bible stories during the last five minutes of the class. Even though Elaine and I don’t see ourselves as teachers or even good with kids, we were challenged by our pastor to serve the community in this manner. Gradually the class has grown larger, and at present we have 10 kids attending each week. At our recent Christmas Candlelight Worship, one of the kids and her grandmother attended.”  

 

‘After the celebration,’ by John Edwards in Japan

John’s main ministry is directing the Tohoku D House, a discipleship-focused missions exploration program. He and his wife, Susan, also serve at Tsubamesawa Church. They have been in Japan since 1993 and in Sendai since 2013 — they moved there about two years after the earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of the country.

“The Aoba Festival, held annually in May, is full of dancing groups performing the Suzume (Sparrow), a celebration dance said to have been created by stonemasons after they completed the walls supporting Aoba Castle. At the festival, I noticed these young men pulling a taiko (traditional Japanese drum), probably after having completed the parade route. I took two photos of these guys — in the first they are looking down and seem very tired, but as they got closer, they noticed me and smiled.”

 

Read on …