EAST TAWAS – Honing an extensive knowledge of theology, undergoing rigorous training, becoming familiar with other cultures throughout the world and being away from loved ones for long periods of time can seem rather daunting. But for those who feel called by God to enter the missions field, this type of work – as well as other sacrifices made along the way – are well worth the rewards that ensue.
Embarking on such a journey together are Trenton Shields, 25, and Hanna Shields, 23, who – after being officially accepted by the largest missions agency in the United States – have begun training to be full-time missionaries.
Both born and raised in the local area, the couple currently reside in East Tawas but will be setting out to spread God’s message to those across the globe.
And with each having a deep-rooted history with Christianity, the experience they already have in this sector includes Trenton serving as a deacon at House of Faith Ministries in East Tawas.
This is the primary church he attends with Hanna, who is no stranger to missionary projects.
As previously reported, her first missions trip entailed two weeks in Brazil in 2018, where she stopped at numerous towns and churches along the Amazon River.
The following year, she spent nearly two months in Australia, where her outreach consisted of everything from teaching scripture classes in schools and participating in open-air evangelism, to leading Sunday school classes, visiting with families for personal ministries and assisting with various youth groups.
Once she and her husband complete the necessary training through ABWE International, their careers as full-time missionaries will also kick off in Australia.
An acronym for the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, ABWE International is a nonprofit missions agency headquartered in Pennsylvania. Supported by individual donors, churches and other organizations, ABWE’s work includes church planting, leadership training and healthcare, children and youth, education and compassion ministries.
As for the Shields’ impending involvement with ABWE, Trenton’s service will be focused on business management and business plotting.
He and Hanna have been communicating frequently with their director, who is currently in Australia. He’s noted that he would like Trenton’s help starting businesses not only there, but also in such locations as New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
With his background including being the general manager at Burger King for the last couple years, the director wants to utilize Trenton’s business experience, “because it’s vital in those parts of the continent,” Trenton said.
Hanna added that her husband will most likely be teaming with one of the same corporations she did while she was in Australia in 2019. Part of this entailed her and other missionaries working with City Bible Forum, which is essentially like a ministry inside the biggest cities of Australia that reach out to the business districts.
Trenton further explained that a vast number of CEOs from the larger businesses in that area get together and have people from ABWE come and speak to them. “And sometimes they’ll help donate to the cause and some people come forward who want to do more with ABWE, especially.”
While the Shields will be learning more about their specific duties in the next couple months, “I know I’ll be teaching in schools,” Hanna says, adding that scripture classes are allowed to be taught for roughly 30 minutes each week.
Her initial experience with ABWE was during her first missions trip to Australia, where she says she did a little bit of everything, and that she enjoyed it all.
“And I would really like to help out with the college ministry program over there, too,” she said, noting how much she enjoyed this type of outreach the first time around.
In addition to this, she says that she and Trenton have to find a church they’re going to help out with, wherever they end up being stationed in Australia. Considering Trenton’s business involvement, this will likely put them in the Sydney area. Finding a church may be challenging, though, since most missionaries already try to go to different places of worship as a way of spreading things out.
But neither this, nor the multiple other tasks they’ve had to complete, will deter the Shields from their goal of becoming full-time missionaries.
Upon applying, the process began when an ABWE representative flew from Pennsylvania to meet with them for a comprehensive interview at their church, which they both described as rather difficult.
With plenty of theological questions, all requiring very specific answers, the pair studied for months in preparation.
Trenton said the biggest hurdle stemmed from the fact that there are so many theologies out there, and that people are selective when it comes to what they want to believe. For example, there are a lot of differences between Catholicism and non-denominational; therefore, missionaries have to be well-versed in it all.
But if they ever became stumped during their studies, they could always turn to Trenton’s father, Bruce Shields, who has a vast background and education in doctrinal theology. He started House of Faith Ministries, as well, where he also serves as a pastor.
When asked whether Hanna and Trenton could do the interview together or if they had to take part in separate sessions, “Thank the Lord they did it together!” Hanna recalled with a laugh. “I’ve done a lot for missions before, but man, that was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done yet. It was rough.”
Trenton agreed, adding that he found this interesting, given that Hanna has already been out in the field for the same missions agency.
“The application process is a lot different for an intern, though, than it is for actual missionaries,” Hanna explained.
While there is still an application process and other steps to fulfill, an internship is nothing compared to the prerequisites for becoming a full-time missionary, she elaborated.
Following the interview, the two attended a conference, “and they sent us an e-mail saying that they want us to go to the field immediately,” Trenton said.
However, they still have to complete some training and they recently registered for their classes. “The first three courses are online, so we’ll do those at home,” Hanna said.
This has to be done by March, which is when the Shields will be going to Pennsylvania for a week-long orientation with ABWE. “Which is a lot,” Hanna pointed out. “That’s basically when everything happens.”
Since the goal is to prepare the missionaries with everything they need to know – but to not take too long doing so, in order to actually get them out and performing their ministry – this means there will be some very long days ahead.
The process will also entail another interview, plenty of on-site classes, diving even deeper into Biblical theology, learning about managing finances and other training.
Once the orientation wraps up, the pair will then be speaking at various churches in order to gain support, beginning in April.
Hanna said this takes time, so she got an early start reaching out to churches to try and set something up. She has contacted a few in Michigan and Ohio so far and, for the ones which are interested, she and Trenton will present their ministry. The churches will then decide whether they want to support the couple’s efforts.
“And sometimes they want him to preach,” Hanna said of Trenton. “So he’s going to have to preach!”
As Hanna shared with this publication after her first ministry experience in Australia, there’s often a misconception that when missionaries travel to foreign locales, they’re also going on some sort of “vacation.” While they do get to see beautiful things along the way, “It’s not about where you’re going, it’s about what you’re doing,” she noted at the time.
Along with dedicating countless hours to their causes, being able to do so also means that missionaries have to work very hard to raise money.
Hanna, for instance, has even put in extra hours and paid for her own plane tickets during past missions trips, which is why the support from churches and other entities is so appreciated.
For her and Trenton’s upcoming stay in Australia, House of Faith Ministries will be what is known as their sending church.
“So we would technically be employed by our church, to go out and do these things,” Trenton said, explaining that other churches will also help with some of the costs.
In addition to being a great source for guidance, he said that ABWE helps missionaries take the difficult part of the finances – such as bills – and put it all into one place so that they can breathe a little easier.
“Because most missionaries, they just never retire,” Hanna said. “And with ABWE, when you raise support, they make sure you can have enough to where you can set some aside.”
Trenton likened this to an insurance policy, of sorts, with Hanna adding that ABWE will help them set up a financial account in the coming months.
In terms of where they will be located, “When people hear we’re going to Australia, they think, ‘oh, they don’t need help,’” Trenton said. “And honestly, that side of the globe...”
“Only about three percent of them are believers,” Hanna chimed in.
She and Trenton each said that many of the residents in these areas don’t feel the desire to seek out Christianity, as there is often a “life is great” mentality. Since they don’t lack much, they don’t think there is as strong of a need.
And life can be great, said Trenton, “but to know what’s going to happen next is extremely important.”
So, whether people think that Australia is just a place to vacation, “it’s like the U.S.,” he continued. “There’s missionaries here; there’s missionaries in the states,” he said, pointing out that people are called to different areas.
“And this is where we were called,” Hanna said.
“And we’ve kept our eyes and ears open,” Trenton shared. “I mean, going to Australia, that is the center of that part of the globe. So when you’re in Australia, you can go to New Zealand, you can go to Papua New Guinea – and these are the places where we want to help.”
As Hanna has explained in the past, Australia is like a big melting pot, where missionaries can speak with and reach out to people from numerous different countries.
“There’s not many other places in the world you can go where you can get that much diversity and be able to minister to all of them,” she has said.
The Shields, who recently celebrated two years of marriage, will likely start out on a mid-term basis. They will be in Australia for two years doing on-the-job training, will return home for a furlough – that will include sharing their testimonies at churches – and then head back out into the field for four years at a time.
They also have a goal of eventually becoming dual citizens and, while this will add even more time and paperwork to their already packed schedules, they are committed to seeing through what God has placed upon their hearts.
“We just figure that if God calls us to it, He’ll take care of us,” Hanna affirmed.
She and Trenton are also accustomed to juggling multiple things at once – from navigating newly married life, purchasing a home, surviving COVID-19 together and setting out on their path as missionaries, all of which has occurred within a short time frame.
This is in addition to maintaining their jobs, with Hanna currently employed at Neiman’s Family Market in Tawas City, as well as their dedication to their church.
Hanna also recently obtained a bachelor’s degree in communication from Colorado Christian University.
It will still be a couple months before they begin seeking funding support for their undertaking. As more details become available, an update will be shared in a future edition of this publication, for those interested in helping out.
ABWE will assist them in creating cards to pass out, as well, which explains where the money goes, and the Shields also plan on setting up a website and e-mail address to aid in their mission.
For more information on the work of ABWE International, visit www.abwe.org.