Overcoming Barriers to Fulfill the Call 

“Hear from IM missionaries as they share their stories about the variety of ways they have each overcome different barriers to fulfill their call to the mission field. How is God calling you to take the Gospel to the nations or to those around you?

Barb Gibbs shares the story of how growing up, she told herself she would never be a missionary or married to a pastor. Later, after overcoming barriers, she and Jerry served in France together for 40 years and are now on staff at the IM office.

A few years ago, we attended our grandson’s kindergarten graduation. Each one of those cute kids stepped up, stated his name, and said what he wanted to be when he/she grew up. There were three aspiring paleontologists in the group! I was so impressed because, at their age, I had no idea what that word even meant.

Like all kids, I did have thoughts of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Anything sport-related was out—I was usually one of the last picked on any kind of team sport we played. “Nurse” or “doctor” did not hold any special attraction. But I did love to draw and paint; I loved to create. So I began thinking I would like to work in the field of commercial art. In high school, I began researching different art schools, with the possibilities they had.

My parents had other ideas. My father was a pastor, a godly man who had worked his way through four years of Bible College with only his farming and barbering skills. He encouraged our education. He and my mother told us three children we could attend the college of our choice, but we were expected to first spend a year at Free Will Baptist Bible College (now Welch College). I thought to myself, “That’s okay. But after that year, I will transfer to a school with an art program.”

It was sometime during that first year that I began to sense that God had other plans for my life. I struggled with that, but one day I finally made what I thought was the BIG SACRIFICE: I prayed, “Lord, I will do whatever you want me to, EXCEPT for being a pastor’s wife or a missionary.” I had lived all my life as a preacher’s kid, and I knew that it was a profession that did not normally make you rich. As for being a missionary, I thought of it as inevitably living with snakes and scorpions, and I couldn’t picture myself doing that.

God has a sense of humor, however. It was after that “deal” I made with Him that I met Jerry. We began spending time together, and I quickly found out he was a pastoral student. Horrors! To make it even worse, he came back from a summer mission trip to France saying, “I left my heart in France; I have to go back!” Then he asked me to marry him and go with him.

That inner struggle was one that lasted awhile. I knew that to say yes to Jerry, whom I loved, I was also saying yes to his calling. To do otherwise would not be honest. While I never had that Macedonian call myself, I gradually felt the conviction that my place was with Jerry, wherever that led.

That was over fifty years ago, and I have never ever regretted that decision. The best place in the world to live is in God’s will. As for the art side, I’ve been blessed to use that interest in planning prayer letters, designing seasonal art for our first storefront church building, working on crafts with Sunday school kids, heading up church Christmas decorating—and then there was the 10’ x 16’ hand-painted backdrop of Bethlehem for our live nativity. A labor of love. God has been good, and His plans are the best.

Jerry and Barbara Gibbs spent 40 years as church-planting missionaries in France and returned to the States in 2014. They have continued to be involved in promoting missions involvement through church mission services, ETEAM, GoGlobal workshops, Perspectives courses, as well as connecting with Welch College students through teaching and organizing events such as the annual Gibbs Global Grille.

Jerry and Barb have three sons (Marc, Joël, and Ryan) and 11 grandchildren. They both enjoy music and gardening, but love nothing better than time spent with family, especially grandkids.


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