April 06, 2014

United States: Diplomatic Discipleship

After decades of ministry in Asia, TEAM missionaries are encouraging and equipping foreign diplomats in Washington, D.C.

  • People of Influence

    While the Schwabs work with diplomats and their families, the Christian Embassy ministry also serves government leaders and military officers. They believe that caring for people in positions of power will make a positive, eternal difference in the world.

In 1972, Phil and Ann Schwab moved to Southeast Asia. They spent 36 years in three different countries, learning languages, planting churches, and providing leadership for TEAM missionaries in the area.

In 2008, the Schwabs returned to the United States. But instead of retiring, they plunged into a new season of ministry with Christian Embassy, a non-political and multi-denominational ministry in Washington, D.C.

“God is amazing in that he doesn’t waste any of our past experiences, but continues to use us to reach out to the nations of the world,” says Ann.

The Schwabs had known about Christian Embassy, a branch of Cru, for years, since Ann’s brother and sister-in-law worked with them. But while Ann’s family always said they couldn’t do what she and Phil did in Asia, the Schwabs said they could never work on Capitol Hill.

As time passed, though, Phil and Ann received several requests to work in D.C. Since their team in Asia didn’t need to be as large as it had been at first, they pursued the idea with TEAM’s leadership. At that time, there weren’t any TEAM missionaries working with internationals in the United States.

“It was kind of a new idea,” Ann says, “but [TEAM] felt like this could very well be something that God was leading us to do.”

Phil and Ann moved to the D.C. area and began working with Christian Embassy’s diplomat division, serving diplomats and ambassadors employed in more than 170 embassies. Some embassies are small, with just a few employees. Others, like the Taiwanese Embassy, have more than 100 staff members.

Through large events and personal meetings, the Schwabs build relationships with these men and women. Ann says their goal is threefold: to win people to Christ, to build them up, and to send them back to their countries equipped for ministry.

“If they haven’t had a chance to know who Jesus is…this is an opportunity for them that they maybe haven’t had in their country,” Ann says.

Life as a foreign diplomat can be challenging. It’s a transitory lifestyle; after transplanting their families to the U.S., most stay here for only two or three years. According to Ann, they do a variety of tasks — from auditing and research to attending conferences, networking with U.S. politicians, and helping their countrymen who live here.

The Schwabs meet these foreigners where they’re at. They welcome new diplomats with a booklet about D.C. Phil visits their offices, offering Bibles and a prayer from Nehemiah. Last November, they hosted a Thanksgiving dinner, where they shared the basics of American history and how the country was founded for religious liberty.

On Mondays and Thursdays, Ann leads a women’s Bible studies with the wives of ambassadors and diplomats. Phil also leads two weekly studies with men, one of which is held in an embassy. As many as twenty men have come to this study, which began last spring. At Christmas, these men hosted a party in their embassy, where two shared their testimonies.

While their past ministry in Asia provided numerous opportunities for evangelism, the Schwabs work with “ones and twos” at this point, Ann says. The Bible story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch encourages her, because Philip was called away from a busy evangelistic ministry to reach just one man — a man who returned to his country with the good news.

After 42 years of ministry with TEAM, Ann can trace the Lord’s faithful, merciful hand in each of their moves and can see that he’s had a purpose for each of their experiences.

“Oh Lord, your plans are so different than we ever dreamed,” Ann says, “but we’re thankful.”

-Written by Esther Kline